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Saturday Sports: Women's Soccer Team, Jay-Z


Finally, time for sports.


SIMON: Talks broke down this week between U.S. soccer and the women's team who demand equal pay. And you know who Jay-Z's newest collaborator is? We're going to be joined now by NPR's Tom Goldman, who is not his newest collaborator so far as I know. Not yet. Not yet is what I should say. Thanks for being with us, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Always a pleasure.

SIMON: So the women's national team walked out of mediation with U.S. Soccer Wednesday I believe over equal pay. What happened?

GOLDMAN: If you ask the women's team members, U.S. Soccer wasn't interested in talking about equal pay, specifically, paying the women bonuses that match the men's players. And if you ask U.S. Soccer, talks broke down because the women's attorneys were, quote, "aggressive and unproductive after presenting misleading information to the public," end quote. So, Scott, both sides are angry. No talks scheduled at this time. And the gender discrimination lawsuit the women filed against U.S. Soccer back in March may be heading to trial.

SIMON: In 2019, what kind of argument does U.S. Soccer - how shall I put this nicely? - pretend to make against equal pay?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Well, they're arguing the women are compensated fairly although differently than the men. And they have a whole bunch of numbers that they say back that up. Politico first reported that U.S. Soccer even hired lobbyists to try to convince lawmakers in D.C. that the Federation is in the right. But, you know, engaging in this public battle appears to be self-defeating for the U.S. - for U.S. soccer. I mean, the women players, as you well know, are the best thing going for the sport in this country.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: They are wildly popular. They have the potential to help spread the game from the grassroots on up, and the Federation isn't going to win the battle of public opinion. Critics say U.S. Soccer should pay women what they're asking, fully get on their side, which appears to be the winning side, both on and off the pitch.

SIMON: I mean, many a problem in sports is solved by throwing money at it. And I wonder why they don't do it now. Jay-Z. His newest collaborator's the NFL. How? Why?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It's a new deal between the league and Jay-Z's entertainment and sports company Roc Nation. They're going to work together on the Super Bowl halftime show. And Roc Nation reportedly will help promote NFL programs dedicated to social change. These are programs that grew out of the protests during national anthems by former player Colin Kaepernick and others. And as you might imagine, this alliance is creating a ton of controversy.

SIMON: Well - and Jay-Z has - I believe is a big buddy of Colin Kaepernick. But is it cheaper for the NFL to do business with Jay-Z than it is to actually get a job for Colin Kaepernick?

GOLDMAN: There's the million - however-many-million-dollar question, you know? Jay-Z has been a big supporter of Kaepernick's and a critic of the NFL for the way teams have apparently blackballed the former quarterback. Jay-Z says there's a time for protests, but now is the time for action. He's saying this collaboration can do a lot more good for the social issues that are at the heart of the player protests.

But, you know, he's getting a lot of flak. Current NFL safety Eric Reid, who started kneeling in protest with Kaepernick back in 2016 - he has criticized Jay-Z for saying, essentially, we've moved past kneeling. And Reid called the collaboration a money move. The NFL's being criticized, too, for making a cynical grab for more African American fans it lost because of the Kaepernick controversy, which, Scott, appears to be with us still as we head into a new NFL season in about three weeks. Reid plays for Carolina. He continues to kneel during the anthem. Kaepernick posted a video, recently, showing him working out and noting he's still without a job after three years.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on
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