By CAITLIN MURRAY
The battle over artificial turf at the 2015 Women’s World Cup doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
FieldTurf, the company providing artificial turf for the tournament in Canada next year, has signed Canadian national team midfielder Kaylyn Kyle to a three-year, $15,000 endorsement deal, according to a report from TSN.
The response was swift from the law firm representing key players from the U.S. Women’s National Team in opposing artificial turf at the World Cup. Hampton Dellinger, an attorney for Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, issued a statement criticizing the deal and calling on both FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association to disclose if they also made deals with FieldTurf for payment.
“No endorsement deal for Kaylyn Kyle can alter Canadian laws prohibiting the kind of sexism that drove FIFA and Canada to stage the women’s World Cup under conditions male players haven’t been and won’t be subjected to,” Dellinger said in a statement Friday. “And no payout can change the fact that artificial turf can injure elite players in unique and painful ways.”
The law firm has threatened both FIFA and the CSA with legal action if the six venues for the World Cup in Canada next year are not grass, as has been the case in every senior men’s World Cup. The group signing onto the letter demanding the change includes high-profile stars like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly from the USWNT, as well as Germany’s Nadine Angerer and Spain’s Vero Boquete.
Under the deal, Kyle, who seems to be a lock to represent Canada at the 2015 World Cup, will help market FieldTurf, which is made from recycled athletic shoes and tires. She declined to comment on the deal.
“She wanted to believe in the product she backs,” Darren Gill, vice president of marketing with FieldTurf, told TSN. “A lot of the discussions were about whether she likes it. It’s not a cash grab for her.”
Dellinger’s press statement included a screenshot of a tweet by Kyle dated June 9, 2013 that showed her bloody, scraped shins after a game with the caption, “I love turf.” Kyle had been playing for the Seattle Reign FC, which played their games on FieldTurf last year. The tweet has since been removed, with Dellinger alleging it was deleted on Thursday after the report of her FieldTurf endorsement was published.
“Before her recent money deal, Ms. Kyle bore witness to the dangers posed by a plastic pitch,” Dellinger said. “The tweet of her turf-burned legs is a ‘smoking shin’ that provides further evidence for why the world’s best female players deserve natural grass.”
CSA and FIFA have both brushed off the complaints since the initial letter was released a month ago. CSA President Victor Montagliani called charges of gender discrimination “the biggest form of misinformation I have ever heard in my life.” FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called artificial turf the future of soccer.
Canada’s bid to host the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which was approved by FIFA, specifically included artificial turf. It was also the only viable bid to host the tournament.
Morgan told Julie Foudy during the National Women’s Soccer League final on Aug. 31 that FIFA and CSA have ignored their letter and the next step, legal action, was imminent.
What do you make of Kyle’s endorsement? How do you see the turn controversy playing out from this point forward?
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