Senators back female soccer players in turf war

Twelve Democratic senators and one Republican are declaring a turf war against the governing body of the World Cup.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownMnuchin says he and Pelosi have agreed to restart coronavirus stimulus talks Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle Remote work poses state tax challenges MORE (D-Ohio) and 12 other senators sent a letter Friday to FIFA and U.S. Soccer Federation officials, criticizing them for requiring female athletes to play on artificial turf fields during the 2015 Women's World Cup. 

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Artificial turf fields are not used in major men's soccer tournaments, and the senators say there is a gender equality issue to be addressed. Female and male athletes, including basketball star Kobe Bryant, have spoken out against the issue. Athletes say that artificial turf fields increase the risk of injury during soccer matches.

"Currently ranked first in the world, the U.S. women's national soccer team has made our country proud time and time again," the senators wrote. "We are deeply concerned with FIFA's treatment of these players. We urge you to begin good faith negotiations with these athletes, free of retaliation and with the equal treatment that they deserve."

Co-signers of the letter are: Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

U.S. women's national team player Abby Wambach said in a statement she was "grateful" for the senators' support.

"What's at stake here is more than just the surface we'll be playing on — it's about gender equality and standing up for what's right," Wambach said. "Women's soccer fans around the world are watching to see if our sport will be given the equal treatment it deserves and now we know that Congress is watching, too."

More than 40 international women's soccer players are suing FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association, which is hosting the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, for gender discrimination, arguing that the men's FIFA World Cup has never been played on turf fields.