Over on The Equalizer, Jeff Kassouf reports several high-profile international women’s soccer players including Abby Wambach and Germany’s Nadine Angerer have retained legal council in preparation for a turf war (womp womp) over the use of artificial grass at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
I’ve been frustrated by the lack of cohesive action from the players. As I’ve said before, many of them seem reluctant to stand up for their basic human rights; why would they stand up for their sport?
Carli Lloyd even went so far to suggest woso fans should start a petition to get FIFA to use grass. That’s just lazy. Petitions carry no legal weight and are easy to ignore. They’re the fast food of social activism. Sit on your couch, click a button, boom. Instant gratification. You don’t even have to get up.
FIFA doesn’t care about the fans. They care about money. Look at what happened in Brazil – there were protests in the streets, cops in riot gear, tear gas grenades – and still 26.5 million people in the U.S. alone watched the final. FIFA can literally bulldoze entire neighborhoods of fans – or turn their backs while hundreds of workers die in Qatar – and the matches will sell out. For every person who sets their boundary and says “this is not right, I won’t go,” there are a dozen more lined up to take their place. FIFA knows this. Fan anger isn’t a gnat FIFA must swat away; fans don’t even get that close.
For the people who want change, I’m reminded of the immortal words of Billy Ray Valentine, who said (and I’m paraphrasing slightly):
“You know, it occurs to me the that best way you hurt rich FIFA is by turning them into poor FIFA.”
You wanna go after the grass? You gotta go after the green. And there are only two groups who can do that:
1. The Sponsors – who are rightly sitting this one out so far. Angry tweets and cursing barely move the meter of today’s media, and sponsors may not even know this is an issue. Or perhaps they’re waiting to see what happens. Now something’s happening. If Wambach, Angerer et. al. can rally a large group of players to sue or boycott, that will make news. Once it hits the news, the sponsors will have to decide whose side they’re on. Will they choose a group of athletes who simply want equal footing (womp womp) in their own sport? Will they back up that choice by withholding dollars? Or will they bow to the Evil FIFA Overlords and keep forking over dough to a governing body that made $2 BILLION in Brazil?
2. The Players – So that leaves it up to the group who arguably has the most to risk by speaking up. Careers are short. Endorsements are fewer than in the men’s game. And that sucks for them. FIFA’s ridiculous, arrogant decision to stage the Cup on fake grass has put the players in the impossible position of choosing to play or to fight. (And don’t think FIFA isn’t counting on them shutting up and playing. I’m looking at you CanWNT.).
But for the love of Mia, if they’re not going to fight for the integrity of sport they love, why are they playing? If they’re not going to stand up for themselves NOW, for the opportunity to put their team and their country in the best position to win at the tournament that likely represents the pinnacle of their careers, when will they? When they’re done playing and have less to risk? When they’re perched on a chair in a TV studio, fat checks all cashed?
It’s easy for me to sit here and wonder why the players didn’t mobilize sooner (I didn’t even have to get up). I know that. But all along it’s been the players who have the power. They are the only ones who can force FIFA to treat them equally, with the respect they deserve. They’re starting to realize it now and beginning to work together. I’m proud of Wambach, Angerer, Vero Boquete, Teresa Noyola and the others who shouldered this weight with their letter to FIFA. I, the fans, the sponsors, the community – we can support the players with our blogs and tweets and voices. But change must begin with them.
Finally, it has.