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US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro resigns amid firestorm over sexist legal strategy

The embattled Cordeiro said the U.S. Soccer Federation needed to go in ‘a new direction.’

U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro resigned Thursday amid an avalanche of criticism that the federation has used sexist and demeaning legal arguments against the U.S. women’s national team under his watch.

“My one and only mission has always been to do what is best for our federation, and it has become clear to me that what is best right now is a new direction,” he wrote in an open letter posted to his Twitter feed. “The arguments and language contained in this week’s legal filing caused great offense and pain, especially to our extraordinary women’s national team players who deserve better. It was unacceptable and inexcusable.”

Cordeiro is referring to a rebuttal from U.S. Soccer filed Monday in the U.S. women’s national team’s wage discrimination lawsuit. In it, U.S. Soccer argued that women have inherently less “ability” than men, which “is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes, such as speed and strength.” The filing said this wasn’t a “sexist trope” but simply “indisputable science.”

Players on the USWNT responded Wednesday night in a silent protest before their game against Japan by wearing their training shirts inside-out, so only the outline of the U.S. Soccer crest could be seen. Cordeiro issued an apology letter during the game, which did little to quell the criticism directed at him.

After the game Megan Rapinoe denounced the language of the legal filing to ESPN, saying that the team felt sexism was among the “undercurrent feelings” in how U.S. Soccer dealt with the team, but to see the language in the legal filing was “really disappointing.”

Molly Levinson, the USWNT’s spokeswoman for the lawsuit issued a statement after the news: “While it is gratifying that there has been such a deafening outcry against USSF’s blatant misogyny, the sexist culture and policies overseen by Carlos Cordeiro have been approved for years by the board of directors of USSF. This institution must change and support and pay women players equally.”

In his resignation letter, Cordeiro says that he wasn’t aware U.S. Soccer was making these arguments.

“I did not have the opportunity to fully review the filing in its entirety before it was submitted, and I take responsibility for not doing so,” he wrote. “Had I done so, I would have objected to language that did not reflect my personal admiration for our women’s players or our values as an organization.”

Since Monday’s filing, Cordiero has been heaped with criticism from all corners of U.S. Soccer. Former USWNT stars Heather O’Reilly and Abby Wambach called on Cordeiro to resign, while other voices expressed dismay at U.S. Soccer’s rhetoric.

Taking Cordeiro’s place will be U.S. Soccer’s vice president, Cindy Cone, a former USWNT player. According to the federation’s bylaws, she will serve as president until the next U.S. Soccer annual general meeting, which is planned for February 2021.

USWNT great Mia Hamm said she expects her former teammate to do well stepping into the role.

I have known Cindy Parlow Cone for over two decades as both a teammate and friend,” Hamm tweeted. “She has always led with integrity and a commitment to others. I have no doubt that she will dedicate herself to making our game better for all.”

Cone will be the first woman to serve as president of U.S. Soccer.

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