13/03/2020 12:39 PM AEDT | Updated 13/03/2020 1:18 PM AEDT

Head Of U.S. Soccer Resigns After Equal Pay Backlash

“My one and only mission has always been to do what is best for our Federation," Carlos Cordeiro wrote in a letter announcing his immediate resignation.

Carlos Cordeiro, the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, resigned Thursday amid the fallout over an equal pay lawsuit filed by dozens of players on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

“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,” Cordeiro wrote in a letter. “The arguments and language continued in this week’s legal filing caused great offense and pain, especially to our extraordinary Women’s National Team players who deserve better.”

He said he would resign effective immediately and be replaced by Cindy Parlow Cone, the federation’s vice president.

Cordeiro’s decision comes after BuzzFeed News published court documents from an equal pay lawsuit filed by 28 women on the national team, in which attorneys for the federation argued that the women’s team’s players should not be paid the same salaries as men because male soccer players had greater skill and carried “more responsibility” than their female counterparts. 

The suit was filed last year, with players arguing that they had been underpaid for years when compared to the men’s national team. They are seeking more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The subsequent court filing prompted swift backlash throughout the sports world. The Women’s National Soccer Team wore their warmup jerseys inside out during the national anthem before their match with Japan on Wednesday, obscuring the federation’s logo. Sponsors of the league said they were “disgusted” by the filing, and members of the federation’s board of directors quickly condemned their own group.

The chief of the Major League Soccer, the men’s professional soccer league governing body, said he was “shocked and angry” after seeing news reports about the court filing.

“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,” Don Garber, the commissioner of MLS, said in a statement. “Those statements do not reflect my personal view, nor do they reflect the views of Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing families.”

Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the women’s national team, said Cordeiro’s resignation and the outcry over the court filings was “gratifying” but called for greater changes throughout the federation and for calls that women be paid equally to be answered. 

“The sexist culture and policies overseen by Carlos Cordeiro have been approved for years by the board of directors of USSF,” Levinson said in a statement obtained by The Athletic. “This institution must change and support and pay women players equally.”

Cone, who will take over for Cordeiro, said earlier Thursday she was “hurt and saddened” by the brief filed on behalf of the federation, saying she disavowed the “troubling statements and will continue to work to forge a better path forward.”

“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,” Cone wrote on Twitter.