Carlos Cordeiro resigned as U.S. Soccer Federation president, three days after the organization filed legal papers in a gender discrimination lawsuit claiming that female players have less physical ability and responsibility than male players.
His decision elevated former U.S. national team midfielder Cindy Parlow Cone to the presidency, making her the federation’s first female president.
Cordeiro announced his resignation on Twitter without even telling the federation’s communications staff. He stepped down on a day several U.S. Soccer board members issued extraordinary rebukes that criticized the governing body’s legal filings, among them Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber and Cone, the federation’s vice president.
A night earlier, U.S. women wore their warmup jerseys inside-out to hide the federation crest during the national anthem before a game against Japan. Several of the federation’s sponsors issued statements this week backing the players and condemning the federation, including the Coca-Cola Co., Anheuser Busch Cos. Inc., the Procter & Gamble Co. and Volkswagen Group.
Cordeiro said he decided to quit after discussions with the federation board.
“It has become clear to me that what is best right now is a new direction,” Cordeiro wrote. “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.
“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. Had I done so, I would have objected to the language.”
The legal papers were submitted to federal court in Los Angeles as part of the federation’s defense of the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by U.S. women’s team players last year. They claim they have not been paid equally to the men’s team and asked for more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . A trial is scheduled for May 5.
“While it is gratifying that there has been such a deafening outcry against (the federation’s) blatant misogyny, the sexist culture and policies overseen by Carlos Cordeiro have been approved for years by the board of directors of (the federation),” the U.S. players said in a statement by spokeswoman Molly Levinson. “This institution must change and support and pay women players equally.”
Cordeiro had issued a statement late during Wednesday’s game against Japan apologizing for the arguments presented in the documents and saying the federation had retained new legal counsel, a move the men’s national team called “window dressing” and “a sleight of hand.”
Cone, 41, scored 75 goals in 158 appearances for the United States from 1995-2006 and won the 1999 World Cup and two Olympic gold medals.
She was elected to the U.S. National Hall of Fame in 2018. Cone was elected federation vice president in 2019 and voted a full four-year term last month.
“I am hurt and saddened by the brief (the federation) filed,” she wrote on Twitter earlier Thursday. “This issue means so much to me, but more broadly to all men & women and, more importantly, to little girls & boys who are our future. I disavow the troubling statements and will continue to work to forge a better path forward.”
Garber’s statement was especially telling. He is a member of the federation board and CEO of Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of MLS and the federation.
“I expressed to the president of the federation in no uncertain terms how unacceptable and offensive I found the statements in that filing to be,” Garber said. “Those statements do not reflect my personal view, nor do they reflect the views of the Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing families. I intend to immediately address this issue with the U.S. Soccer board of directors.”
A former Goldman Sachs partner, Cordeiro was elected to head the federation two years ago. He had been vice president before he took over from Sunil Gulati, who decided not to run for re-election after the men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.