After disclosing player information, USSF moves to seal suit
ANNE M. PETERSON
Feb. 05, 2016
The U.S. Soccer Federation's original lawsuit against the union for its champion women's national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players.
A day after the original complaint was filed, the USSF filed a motion to seal it, saying "private, personal contact information of individual members" included in the exhibits "is wholly irrelevant to the merits of the dispute."
The clerk of the court was directed to seal the original complaint Thursday pending a decision on the motion by U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman. A redacted version of the lawsuit, with player information blacked out, is now posted online.
The USSF's lawsuit sought a ruling that its collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Players Association runs through Dec. 31. The union complains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.
The original suit included email addresses and home addresses for several stars, including Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo.
"It was unintentional on the part of U.S. Soccer's counsel, and a redacted version of the complaint has already been filed," the federation said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
Rich Nichols, executive director of the union that represents the U.S. women's team, did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.
According to the documents, Nichols maintains that the memorandum of understanding expires on Feb. 24, shortly after the final day of the Olympic qualifying tournament for the North and Central America and Caribbean region. The United States is set to open the tournament on Feb. 10 against Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas.
If the U.S. women make it to the final, they would secure a spot in the Rio Games this summer.
Although the federation's lawsuit seeks only to clarify the expiration, it appeared to also show some tension in the efforts to secure a new collective bargaining agreement.
Many players on the national team have voiced concern over gender equity in the sport, something that came to light in advance of last year's World Cup in Canada. A group of players filed a complaint in Canada over the artificial turf playing surface, claiming that the men's World Cup is played on natural grass.
After the women won the World Cup, with a 5-2 victory over Japan in the final, they revisited the turf issue during a victory tour when a game in Hawaii was canceled because the artificial turf was deemed unsafe.
The USSF claims Nichols informed it late last year that the deal will end on Feb. 24 and at a meeting on Wednesday refused to agree that the union would not strike before Dec. 31. The USSF asked the court to determine the CBA exists and has an expiration of Dec. 31.
"While unfortunate, we believe taking this action provides the parties with the most efficient path to a resolution, in an effort to not jeopardize the team's participation in any competitions this year," the USSF said in a statement.
In a Jan. 6 email attached to the lawsuit, Nichols told the USSF the union's position was that the collective bargaining agreement no longer exists and the 2013 memorandum of understanding could be terminated at any time.
"The world champion women of the national soccer team are negotiating in good faith to reach agreement on a new CBA that will bring fairness and equity to the sport," Jeffrey Kessler, a labor lawyer representing the players union, said in a statement Wednesday night. "The unfortunate lawsuit by the USSF is a regrettable distraction that will not weaken the resolve of the players or deter them from the bargaining table, where this dispute belongs."
Kessler did not respond to an email seeking comment about USSF's motion on Thursday.