Crooks’ Soccer Journal: Q&A with USWNT, NASL attorney Jeff Kessler

Kessler

by GLENN CROOKS

On Wednesday, I had a one-on-one conversation with attorney Jeff Kessler, best known as the man who represented Tom Brady against the NFL in the infamous DeflateGate scandal.

Today, Kessler is the lead attorney representing the United States Women’s National Team in a wage discrimination claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOF).

I sat down with Kessler to discuss the Women’s case — and even touched on the looming NASL matter with the U.S.S.F.

Here is the full Q&A from our chat:


Glenn Crooks: You stated recently that the USWNT filed the wage claim because US Soccer made it clear that they will not consider equal pay. How did you come to that conclusion?

Jeff Kessler: The women had made a proposal of achieving equality with the men in compensation. The USSF found this financial proposal to be so irrational in their view that they would not respond to it and asked the women to make more proposals. It was very clear that the USSF were looking for something less than equal pay and since that violates the law, the women shouldn’t even have to negotiate for it, they should just receive that. The players concluded they had no choice but to take this legal action.

GC: Russell Sauer, US Soccer’s legal council, denied “categorically” that anything even remotely along those lines of equal pay was ever said in any of the three CBA negotiating meetings to this point.

JK: I read his quotes and he was very careful. He never stated that they would NEVER agree to equal pay.

GC: It seems as if US Soccer is accusing you of stretching the truth.

JK: Well, they can portray me or the women any way they would like. The facts will free us all.

GC: The expectation is that US Soccer will be forced to disclose to the EEOC how they have calculated past payments to the women. What do you think they will find?

JK: There’s never been adequate disclosures of USSF finances, so we will be anxious to see what they disclose now. The issue of the fact there is different pay here is not going to be disputed. Here’s what The USSF is going to claim as a defense – don’t look at 2015 when the USWNT made a lot more revenues, don’t look at 2016 when the women are going to make a lot more revenues, let’s go back to earlier years when they claim the women did not make those kind of revenues and that is justification for paying the women less. We are looking for equal compensation today. What’s relevant to that issue are what are the finances today. We don’t think this is going to be a complicated or difficult issue for the EEOC at all.

GC: You would expect US Soccer to claim that pay disparities are consistent with salary and compensation policies found in its current CBA with the USWNT. In essence, the players voluntarily agreed to their current wages. Won’t that make it difficult for EEOC to rule in your favor?

JK: Nobody can agree to an unlawful discrimination. Imagine if someone entered into a union agreement that said that Black or Latino players are going to only play in only one position. That would clearly be illegal. It doesn’t matter if there was an agreement and it’s the same thing for the discrimination based on gender. It is simply not permitted. In every case of pay discrimination the employee has agreed to accept the pay rather than not work at all.

GC: We have heard that EEOC decisions can take up to a year. How do you think that will impact CBA negotiations?

JK: The CBA negotiations are proceeding and maybe we can reach a fair agreement. That would be the hope of the players. This issue could be mooted right now if the USSF agrees to provide equal pay. But if that doesn’t happen, we believe that this one is relatively straight forward and easy for the EEOC so we think it should move more quickly than the average of six months.

GC: Can you describe exactly what you mean by equal pay?

JK: For friendlies they should receive the same pay structure as the men. The same per game payment, the same bonus and incentives. For games in the the World Cup they should receive the same amount for making the team and the same amount for incentives if they get victories. They should get the same per diem for meals. Right now, none of these things is true.

GC: Soccer United Marketing (SUM) is the company that markets the women’s broadcast rights. Does that mean that Major League Soccer is benefiting from the work of the women?

JK: It would certainly appear that way to us. We don’t have any transparency into SUM. The women’s rights are bundled together with all sorts of other rights including MLS. It will be very interesting to see how much USSF is willing to reveal their finances and what that truly shows about the value of these champion women.

GC: Do you see the irony of arguing this claim with US Soccer President, Sunil Gulati, as both of you have strong connections to Columbia University? (Kessler has an undergraduate degree and law degree from Columbia and is a lecturer-in-law. Gulati is a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Economics)

JK: I actually saw Sunil at a Columbia event recently. I noted to him that the one thing we agree about is Columbia University and we are both financial supporters of Columbia.

GC: You and Gulati have previously met in the litigation spheres. You are representing the North American Soccer League (NASL) against MLS and US Soccer claiming that US Soccer creates unlawful hurdles to ensure that MLS remains America’s only Division 1 league. What is the status of that claim?

JK: That’s still something that is being discussed between the parties so I’m not going to comment on that. The NASL hopes that the USSF is going to give them Division 1 status in the relatively near future and will continue their legal claims if they are not granted that status.

GC: We have always needed a Marvin Miller to represent the concerns of soccer in our country. Are you our guy?

JK: No, I’ll give Rich Nichols (Executive Director, USWNT Players Union) that role. I’m Marvin Miller’s lawyer but I’m not Marvin Miller himself.

GC: One final question. If you had to pinpoint one piece of financial evidence that give the women an edge in this claim, what would it be?

JK: The fact that they generate more revenues than the men and earn half the pay.


For more from Glenn Crooks, visit WFAN.com and listen to his weekly show, The Coaching Academy, every Wednesday on SiriusXM FC.

  • Pingback: SoccerDigest.net()

  • Leo Glickman

    Great interview and read Glenn Crooks. Thanks.

  • OpenCupFan

    About time people start talking about how #bushleaguemls makes $ from the USNTs. This is incomprehensible – yes Americans, whether you want to or not, each time you purchase USNT gear, watch on tv, or go to a game you are giving $money$ to #mlssux.
    .
    How strong is a mean professional league if it need to take $ from the women’s national team to survive?

    • Larry\’s A Simpleton

      lol you’re a joke jsprech. nobody gives a **** about your half assed independent soccer clubs. pull your head out of your ass and see MLS rules and nasl is a minor league and always will be. this guy kessler looks like a retard. you leo, martinez and the rest of the little league fanboys are desperatly grasping at straws. roflmao

      #NOBODYGIVESASHITABOUTMINORLEAGUESOCCER

      • Green Balloon Man

        “Minor League Soccer” should be MLS’s new name. Just take the “Major” out because they do not win my respects mooching off of the women’s and men’s national teams for money. MLS is so cheap, they even refuse to pay youth clubs that developed Dempsey and Yedlin (among others) 5% of the foreign transfer fees. MLS paying youth clubs for developing players would eventually end pay-for-play because our best youth clubs would not need players money to survive, but nooooooooooooooooooooo. MLS wanted to keep ALL the money.

        What I am saying is; MLS is a cheap peace of sh**.

      • Last time we will hear from larry.

        I know who you are clown.
        Keep it up I will post more **** on you that will make you crawl into your hooker mom’s womb.
        First clue. Works mostly weekends.
        Address next.
        Keep it up.

      • open letter to EOD

        Get this clown off the site. He is verbally abusive and a very poor reflection on your site.
        I have his IP address more than happy to serve a cease and desist on your behalf. I do this for a living. You have my email.
        Gabe P. Esq.

    • Larry is a Simpleton

      I think Sunil Gulati is hot. What about you guys? Do you think Roxx Fontaine is hot too?

    • Gazza

      @OpenCupFan You do realize that NASL was part of the original deal with SUM and backed out at the last minute because they were convinced Traffic was going to make way more money than SUM and they didn’t want to share it with MLS right?

      How is that working out for them?

  • Joey Jo Jo

    Men’s team money is channeled to MLS. Women’s team money is channeled to MLS. Certain Mexican matches create money that is channeled to MLS.

    I would love to see SUM forced to open their books,

  • baba.O. Riley

    S.U.M is owned, by : don garber , 2 other investors, and MLS team owners . SUM , IS ALSO Mexico marketing company . When Mexico plays friendlies in the usa , mls gets a cut from it ….. thats why they have changed the rules for nasl to become 1 division too …..

  • Anthony

    With all the shenanigans going in FIFA, UEFA, etc. is anyone here willing to give USSF the benefit of the doubt, they are as corrupt as the rest of them and for sure colluding with MLS and SUM on all sorts of inner dealings.

  • Pingback: DSN: April 6, 2016 – Divergent Sports News()

  • Pingback: Q&A with Jeff Kessler, attorney representing #USWNT and NASL in cases against USSF - The Cooligans()

  • OpenCupFan

    The silence of #bushleaguemls fan bots on this issue is deafening.
    .
    This right here is what happens when cartels are allowed to proceed unsupervised.
    .
    If you are an American soccer fan, you can’t sit back and stay silent as this goes on, make your voices heard.
    .
    #ProRelForUSA

    • slowleftarm

      This isn’t twitter, William. No need for hashtags.

  • alex gago

    It would be wise for USSF to take mediation at this early stage in the NASL v USSOCCER federation and USWNT v USSOCCER federation. Rather than pay for a long drawn out and expensive legal battle which is sure to be highly publicized. Especially when the domestic consumption of FIFA corruption continues to plaque the beautiful game. The legal timing for Kessler couldn’t be better.

  • Pingback: Crooks' Soccer Journal: Social Media and Today's Pro Soccer Players()