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Claim of unequal pay by U.S. women's soccer team dismissed by judge – CBC.ca

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A federal judge threw out the unequal pay claim by players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team in a surprising loss for the defending World Cup champions but allowed their allegation of discriminatory working conditions to go to trial.

Players led by Alex Morgan sued in March 2019, claiming they have not been paid equally under their collective bargaining agreement to what the men’s national team receives under its labour deal. They asked for more than $66 million US in damages under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a 32-page decision Friday, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner granted in part a motion for partial summary judgment by the U.S. Soccer Federation. He threw out the Equal Pay Act allegations but left intact the Civil Rights Act claims.

“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Klausner wrote.

“Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their CBA worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play terms structure when they themselves rejected such a structure,” he said.

Klausner left intact claims the USSF discriminated in the money it spent on commercial airfare, hotel accommodations, and medical and training support services.

A trial is scheduled for June 16 in federal court in Los Angeles.

“We are shocked and disappointed with today’s decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay,” Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the women’s players, said in a statement. “We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender.”

Players intend to appeal

Players intend to ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Klausner’s decision, a move that could delay the trial into 2021 or later.

“If you know this team at all you know we have a lot of fight left in us. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy, change never is,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn wrote on Twitter.

While the Americans are the most successful women’s team, with four World Cup titles including the last two, the U.S. men did not even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The USSF argued the women actually made more than the men both overall and by game average, and the women claimed they should have the same bonus structure as the men.

“Merely comparing what WNT players received under their own CBA with what they would have received under the MNT CBA discounts the value that the team placed on guaranteed benefits they receive under their agreement, which they opted for at the expense of higher performance-based bonuses,” Klausner wrote.

“This issue is insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial,” he added.

Klausner also said the women could not go forward with their claim that the USSF discriminated against them by scheduling more games on artificial turf than the men had. He said there was not sufficient evidence to show that decisions on field surface were made for discriminatory reasons.

‘Gross disparity on money spent on airfare and hotel’

He rejected the USSF’s argument that the men had a competitive need for charter flights that the women lacked, allowing that part of the suit to go forward. The federation has argued that the men, who have struggled in World Cup qualifying, have more need for charters than the women in order to arrive more rested for their qualifiers.

“This rationale does not fully explain the gross disparity on money spent on airfare and hotels for the teams,” Klausner wrote.

Klausner allowed other claims of discriminatory travel accommodations, such as money spent on hotels and commercial flights, to go to trial along with claims on support services such as medical and training staff. He said the USSF’s lawyers waited until reply briefs to ask for those claims to be thrown out, which meant he did not have to consider them.

Seyfarth Shaw’s summary judgment motion for the USSF included arguments critical of American women’s players. That filing caused an uproar and led to the resignation of USSF president Carlos Cordeiro, who was replaced by Cindy Parlow Cone, a former national team player. Latham & Watkins took over as counsel and filed the reply brief.

Parlow Cone has said she hopes the suit can settle before a trial.

“We look forward to working with the women’s national team to chart a positive path forward to grow the game,” the USSF said in a statement. “We are committed to continuing that work to ensure our women’s national team remains the best in the world.”

Earlier Friday, the women asked that Parlow Cone be included as a trial witness. Their lawyers said although the federation backed off earlier arguments saying women were inferior to their male counterparts in skill and effort, it still planned to contest differences in responsibility.

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Conor McGregor says he’s ‘decided to retire from fighting’ – Sportsnet.ca

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Conor McGregor has announced his retirement for the third time in four years.

McGregor abruptly made his latest dubious declaration Sunday morning on his Twitter account, where the former two-division UFC champion also announced his retirement in 2016 and 2019.

“Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting,” McGregor wrote in a caption below a photo of him and his mother. “Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!”

The 31-year-old Irish superstar revitalized his combat sports career in January with an impressive first-round stoppage of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246. McGregor (22-4) hadn’t won a fight in a mixed martial arts cage or a boxing ring since 2016, but he remained the UFC’s brightest star and biggest financial draw.

UFC President Dana White has already said McGregor is next in line for a title shot at the winner of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s bout with Justin Gaethje this summer.

The UFC’s schedule is in upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic, but McGregor was expected to get his title shot later this year, and he recently had been talking to White about taking another fight even earlier. Earlier this week, McGregor posted photos and videos of himself training for fights.

White was still willing to take McGregor’s retirement announcement at face value — at least publicly — when he learned about it at his news conference following UFC 250 in Las Vegas.

“If Conor McGregor feels he wants to retire, you know my feelings about retirement,” White said. “You should absolutely do it. And I love Conor. … There’s a handful of people that have made this really fun for me, and he’s one of them.”

Retirements are a time-honoured device for gathering attention and increased bargaining power in combat sports. From Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather to Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, countless champions of boxing and MMA have gone back on their solemn announcements whenever need or ego brought them back to the sport.

McGregor made his first Twitter retirement announcement in April 2016 during a spat with the UFC over promotion of his rematch with Nate Diaz.

McGregor famously wrote: “I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese. Catch ya’s later.”

McGregor and Diaz fought in August 2016.

Three years later, McGregor retired again in March 2019 in what White believed was a gambit to entice the UFC to offer him an ownership stake in the company. McGregor began talking about new fights shortly afterward, and he eventually returned to face Cerrone in early 2020.

The loquacious McGregor has long proven that his pronouncements can’t be taken as gospel truth. Earlier this year, McGregor “accepted” future fights against former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and long-retired boxing superstar Oscar De La Hoya with little reason to think they will ever happen.

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Amanda Nunes completely dominates Felicia Spencer in lopsided decision to defend title at UFC 250 – MMA Fighting

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Amanda Nunes was already considered the greatest women’s fighter of all time before competing at UFC 250. Nothing dispelled that mystique on Saturday night as the reigning two-division champion absolutely dominated Felicia Spencer from the first second of their fight until the last as she defended her featherweight title for the first time.

The scorecards read 50-44, 50-44 and 50-45 with Nunes winning her 11th consecutive fight overall. While it was somewhat shocking that Spencer survived to the end, Nunes paid homage to her opponent for the incredible toughness she displayed.

“I’m not surprised,” Nunes said afterwards. “I know she’s very tough. I know what she’s capable of. I know she’s tough. I have to be sharp.”

In the first few exchanges it appeared Nunes was going to add another knockout to her resume after she clubbed Spencer with a couple of powerful right hands that would likely finish many opponents. Somehow, Spencer stayed upright as she tried to apply her grappling game by slowing Nunes down in the clinch.

That backfired after Nunes surprised her with a whizzer and then began dropping elbows from the top position for the remainder of the first round.

While she didn’t fade away, Spencer was just outmatched on the feet as she continued to eat punches with Nunes blasting her with thudding right hands again and again. With a smirk on her face almost the entire fight, Nunes continued walking Spencer down and then unleashing her powerful strikes.

By the time the third round was winding down, Nunes was in absolute control, tagging Spencer with a barrage of punches and then making her pay with kicks as well. Spencer was starting to fade without any hope of getting Nunes to the ground as the damage she was absorbing really started to add up.

With Nunes battering Spencer’s lead leg, the two-division champion really started to stalk her prey as she hunted for the finish. As time ticked away in the fourth round, Nunes went for the kill as she put together a series of punches that had Spencer nearly out on the feet.

Nunes almost wrapped up a rear-naked choke with seconds remaining but Spencer survived to the end of the round as she went back to her corner with hematomas swelling and blood streaked across her face.

In only got worse during the final five minutes with another cut opening up and Nunes just punishing Spencer in every exchange on the feet or on the ground. By the end of the fight, Nunes was just rag dolling Spencer around the cage as she cemented the victory.

Now with title defenses at bantamweight and featherweight, Nunes has all but obliterated every legitimate contender in both divisions. The question remains who will challenge Nunes next but for now she’s going to concentrate on more important matters — like the birth of her first child.

“That was my goal, defend my two belts,” Nunes said. “I’m so happy right now. I don’t know what is next. I had a fifth corner today. I have my daughter with me.”

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Spurs’ Gregg Popovich: U.S. ‘is in trouble and the basic reason is race’ – Sportsnet.ca

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Amid the marches and the protests, amid the pain, amid the generational trauma this moment in history has forced communities across the world to openly reckon with, a spotlight has shone bright on the need to listen and learn.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sees that spotlight. He sees that need for learning. And he knows that what must be learnt is not just what is happening in the streets across the United States now, but the history that preceded it. To see one without the other would be to miss the essential full picture.

“Black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years,” Popovich said Saturday during a #SpursVoices video, a Twitter-based initiative by the team to give a voice and platform to people within their organization to share how racism has impacted them. “The only reason this nation has made the progress that it has is because of the persistence, and patience, and effort of Black people.

“The history of our nation from the very beginning, in many ways, was a lie. And we continue to this day — mostly Black and Brown people — to try to make that lie be truth so that it is no longer a lie.”

In the three-minute video, Popovich does not expand on the specific history he is labeling a lie, though possibilities are not hard to find.

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence, for example, written in 1776, reads “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Pledge of Allegiance, in its original form, read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1923, the words “the Flag of the United States of America” were added to the beginning of the pledge.

Longstanding notions of all men being created equal with certain unalienable rights, and the U.S. being one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all are challenging to reconcile with history.

The United States had 250 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow — laws which mandated racial segregation in all public facilities, starting in the 1870s and 1880s, and sought to disenfranchise and remove political and economic gains made by Blacks during the Reconstruction period — and 60 years of “separate but equal,” a legal doctrine that asserted racial segregation did not necessarily violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed “equal protection” under the law to all people. None of which even begins to address discriminatory housing policies or explicitly touches on the history of Black people suffering from police brutality.

“It’s almost, in a strange counter-intuitive sort of way, the best teaching moment of this most recent tragedy,” Popovich said. “I think [it was] the look on the officer’s face. For white people to see how nonchalant, how casual, how just everyday-going-about-his-job [he looked]. So much so that he could just put his left hand in his pocket, wriggle his knee around a little bit to teach this person some sort of a lesson, and it was his right and his duty to do it in his mind.”

The abhorent incident Popovich is referencing is, of course, the death of George Floyd.

Richard Deitsch and Donnovan Bennett host a podcast about how COVID-19 is impacting sports around the world. They talk to experts, athletes and personalities, offering a window into the lives of people we normally root for in entirely different ways.

Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died on May 25 in police custody in Minneapolis. The incident, which was captured on video, showed Floyd pinned to the ground with his hands cuffed and Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin – who was identified as the primary officer in the video – with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes.

In the video, Floyd can be heard saying that he couldn’t breathe, and later paramedics are seen lifting an apparently non-responsive Floyd onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.

An independent autopsy has since found that Floyd’s death was caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain. After the graphic video circulated widely on social media, the four officers involved in the incident were fired and Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded Chauvin’s charge to second-degree murder on Wednesday, and charged the three other officers on the scene with aiding and abetting.

“I don’t know,” Popovich said, visibly hurt by the recollection of the video. “I think I’m just embarrassed as a white person to know that that can happen, to actually watch a lynching. We’ve all seen books. And you look in the books and you see Black people hanging on trees. And you are amazed that we just saw it again. I never thought I’d see that with my own eyes in real time.”

The dismay and outrage Popovich felt has been shared by many, as protests continue across the U.S., sparked by the death of Floyd, denouncing systemic racism and acts of police brutality. The protests have not been for Floyd exclusively, though. Popovich is aware of that, too.

“What’s it gonna take,” he wonders in the video. “Two more Black people with knees in their necks?”

Though she did not die due to a knee in her neck, protests have also featured calls for justice for Breonna Taylor, an African-American woman who died on March 13 after Louisville police officers — executing a search warrant — used a battering ram to enter her apartment and, after a brief confrontation, fired several shots, striking her at least eight times. At this time, no charges have been filed against the officers.

“It’s like the gun [control] arguments,” Popovich said when grappling with how American can build a better, safer future. “How many more Sandy Hooks do we need to have? It’s easy for people to let things go because it doesn’t involve them. It’s like the neighbourhood where you know there’s a dangerous corner, and you know that something is going to happen some day and nobody does anything. Then a young kid gets killed and a stop sign goes up.

“Well, without getting too political, we’ve got a lot of stop signs that need to go up. Quickly. Because our country is in trouble and the basic reason is race.”

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