Boycott of Rio Olympics is possible, Becky Sauerbrunn says

Becky Sauerbrunn. (Jack Dempsey/AP)

Becky Sauerbrunn. (Jack Dempsey/AP)

In an ESPNW interview with Julie Foudy that’s spreading rapidly through the soccer world, Becky Sauerbrunn says the U.S. women’s team could boycott the 2016 Olympics if there’s no progress by this summer in labor talks with U.S. Soccer.

A boycott “would still be on the table,” said Sauerbrunn, the team’s co-captain.

2016-Rio-Olympic-Logo-7“We are reserving every right to do so, and we’re leaving every avenue open,” she told Foudy. “And if nothing is changed, if we don’t feel real progress has been made, then that’s a conversation we’re going to have.”

Arguably, this isn’t really news, since a boycott of the Olympics was always on the table. The U.S. women have said from the beginning of their increasingly public dispute with U.S. Soccer that they would consider all options.

Nothing about that has changed.

However, the fact that the threat of an Olympic boycott is being directly raised — and by one of the team’s most respected leaders, in an interview with an icon of the women’s game — suggests strongly a lack of movement  toward a quick, peaceful accord between U.S. soccer and the women’s team.

The women’s position, essentially, is that U.S. Soccer’s present pay structure, which greatly favors the men’s team, is unfair and discriminatory — and, moreover, that the pay gap is emblematic of  greater inequalities. They say their pay doesn’t reflect the contributions, financial and otherwise, that they’ve made to the game, particularly since bringing home an unprecedented third World Cup last year.

U.S. Soccer’s position, essentially, is that a deal’s a deal, and you’re getting what we’ve agreed to give you, and that’s that.

Sauerbrunn’s comments should send a clear signal to U.S. Soccer: The federation can take a hard line if it so chooses.  It can drag its feet. It can fight the women at every turn, over every clause and every nickel, in court, in the bargaining room, and before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But if it does, there could be a steep price to pay this summer.

Last year, when leading players from the United States and other countries took FIFA and the Canadian soccer federation to court over the use of artificial turn at the  World Cup, many observers felt the women undermined their position by saying from the beginning that no matter what happened, they wouldn’t boycott the tournament.

What happened was nothing. FIFA ignored the legal complaint, the Canadians stalled,, time ran out, and the suit was dropped. The games went on — on plastic turf.

That was then.

As  Sauerbrunn’s co-captain, Carli Lloyd, wrote in Sunday’s New York Times,  “We are not backing down anymore.”



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