So the picture got your attention yes? What do you think caused that kind of damage? An attack? An accident? Wrong on both counts. Those legs belong to professional soccer player, Sydney Leroux, who snapped the photo after sliding on artificial turf. FIFA, the governing body of soccer, said Tuesday that despite the threat of a lawsuit from several of the sport’s top players they plan to continue the course to play the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada on artificial turf.
What is the role of a governing body of a sport? Is it to protect and promote its athletes? While the NFL has come under fire in recent weeks for alleged over-protection of some its stars, FIFA gave the proverbial Heisman to Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and the entire international soccer community as they threaten legal action citing “gender discrimination.” Every men’s World Cup since 1930 has been played on grass. The athletes involved are saying they have reasonable concerns over the safety of the surface. “Gender discrimination” violates Canadian law.
Any NFL fan knows turf is rougher than grass – it can cut up legs while sliding and doesn’t give way as a natural surface does. In the NFL artificial surfaces have also been blamed for increasing the risk of knee injuries. Why should this matter if you aren’t a soccer fan? Got a daughter? Wife? Girlfriend? It goes back to the “women are paid 70 cents for every dollar a man makes” scenario, which I thought we were moving past. (Does that still exist? I have to ask some of my male colleagues what they are being paid per broadcast and then maybe get back to you on that.) The campaign to draw attention to this fight has gotten tweets of support from high profile male athletes like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. The hashtag #ProtectTheAthlete accompanied Bryant’s tweet of Leroux’s legs. The image is fairly alarming and one wonders: WHAT THE HELL IS FIFA THINKING? It is barbaric. Seriously. Examine that picture. You don’t have to be of the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs era to come to the conclusion that this just isn’t right. If Lionel Messi wanted grass for the Men’s Cup you can bet that the checkbook would be out of FIFA’s backpocket before he could tie his cleats. It would cost FIFA between $3 million and $6 million to install grass in all six Canadian stadiums hosting the competition next summer. I don’t know how deep the organization’s pocket are but if the men wouldn’t be asked to play on turf whose idea was it to make the women guinea pigs? I’m guessing the person who signed off on it has never played on turf. I haven’t played on turf either but I know enough about little rubber pellets to know I don’t want to slide on them. The lawsuit will be filed in the next week but I don’t believe this is bad for the game. To the contrary I suspect it will interest sports fans of both genders and all nationalities. My hope is that this cause catches the eye of more high-profile male athletes … maybe even some NFL players who can really speak to the dangers of an artificial surface and help demand a change not for “equality” or “women’s rights” but just because keeping some of the world’s greatest athletes safe while they play the game they love is simply the right thing to do.