A report in Politico today revealed that one of the Washington, D.C. lobbying firms hired by US Soccer to push their stance on the USWNT and equal pay with lawmakers actually called Democratic presidential candidates’ campaigns to give them US Soccer’s side of the story. These campaigns were sent USSF’s presentation outlining their arguments that they don’t underpay the WNT in case the issue came up during the Democratic debate at the end of July. They contacted at least five campaigns before the debate, according to Politico.
It’s hard not to see this as US Soccer trying to give Democratic candidates USSF’s preferred talking points ahead of time, although in an email Politico obtained, the lobbyist framed it as “U.S. Soccer Federation wants to be sure all of the candidates have access to all available information.”
SSFC reached out to find someone familiar with the situation; one presidential campaign staffer was incredulous at USSF’s attempt to shift conversation around the equal pay fight in this manner. They described what they perceived to be the general reaction to this effort as “laughable.”
This staffer said that one perception from those campaigns contacted by the lobbyist is that USSF is wary of the equal pay fight having reached a level in the public consciousness that would make it a debate-worthy issue, and that they wanted to head it off at the pass. Instead, the federation has now Streisand Effect-ed the issue into an even bigger spotlight while making themselves look rather churlish in the process.
It is unusual to reach out to presidential campaigns requesting that they discuss an item in a certain way, particularly this issue with this set of Democratic nominees, many of whom have built platforms that include gender equality. Lobbying efforts like this are used more with congressional offices in order to have conversations about pending policy. To the campaign staffer, this felt like more of a “PR move” rather than any serious attempt to influence legislation based on the manner in which campaigns were contacted, since none of the Democratic candidates is really in a position to immediately affect relevant legislation, but would certainly be in a position to shape national attitudes towards USSF and the USWNT.
The more that comes out about USSF’s attempts to shape the narrative that they pay the USWNT less - often with contextless data that presents numbers without noting things like how much money was actually paid out per game played instead of in sum over 10 years - the more it seems like they’re really doing everything they can to avoid having to pay the women more. It’s a really unfortunate look from a federation that, in their own presentations, boasts about how much they invest in the women and believe in the growth of the women’s game.