By CAITLIN MURRAY
When the news emerged that Canadian National Team midfielder Kaylyn Kyle had signed an endorsement deal with artificial turf maker FieldTurf, the criticism was swift.
After all, Kyle’s federation plans to host the 2015 Women’s World Cup on artificial turf, including FieldTurf — a decision that has sparked controversy from players who have decried it as gender discrimination.
Lawyers representing a group threatening to sue over the issue blasted Kyle, saying a tweet from last year showing scrapes on her shins was evidence the endorsement rings false because she must really hate turf.
There is evidence to suggest that those assertions were wrong, and assumptions about Kyle’s true feelings about artificial turf were off the mark.
Kyle has been a fan of turf going back 2012, telling reporters before CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers that the adjustment from grass to turf was easy because she preferred it.
“I’m the wrong person to ask,” Kyle said when asked about turf in the January 2012 video posted by Red Nation Online. “I love playing on turf. You don’t get the weird bounces. It’s a faster game. You get great balls. It’s easier to get the ball up, I find.”
“I’m biased. I love it.”
Kyle signed a three-year, $15,000 endorsement deal to help market FieldTurf, TSN reported Thursday. FieldTurf will be used at four of the six stadiums at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
“This is not a big dollar category for her or for us, so for her to want to put her name on this, obviously there could be some exposure because of the issue,” Darren Gill, vice president of marketing with FieldTurf, told TSN. “She wanted to believe in the product she backs.”
In light of her 2012 comments about turf, it appears her now-deleted tweet with the caption “I love turf” may not have not been meant the way it was taken after news of her endorsement deal broke. Kyle declined to comment on her endorsement deal.
The battle over artificial turf at the World Cup has been a contentious one that has slowly gained traction since a group of players threatened legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association last month. The group includes mostly Americans, such as Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, but includes players from other countries, such as Germany’s Nadine Angerer and Spain’s Vero Boquete.
The attorneys for that group of players had come out strong against Kyle, implying the endorsement deal changed her tune and her deleted tweet was evidence she shared the belief that artificial turf is inferior.
Canada was the only viable bid for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The only other bid was Zimbabwe, which later removed itself from consideration.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been adamant that artificial turf will play a bigger role in soccer in years to come. No men’s World Cup has ever been held on artificial turf and the upcoming men’s World Cup tournaments through 2022 are planned to be on grass. Both men’s and women’s World Cup qualifiers have been played on artificial turf before.
“It used to be the case that playing on artificial turf was a nightmare,” Blatter told reporters last month in Canada. “The quality was poor; it was no better than a carpet. But the quality has improved vastly since then. Artificial pitches are the future. Wherever football is played, all over the world, there is an increasing lack of space for training and competitive pitches.”
The Wambach-led players group has threatened to sue, with them requesting response from FIFA and Canadian Soccer Association by Aug. 4. Morgan said last week the group received no response. No lawsuit has yet been filed.
As for Kyle, her decision to endorse artificial turf has gone over about as poorly as could have been expected in women’s soccer circles. But based on the video that surfaced showing her support for artificial turf — video that came to light after her deleted tweet was circulated — it would appear Kyle’s support of turf isn’t simply a case of an athlete’s opinion being swayed by money.