Sunday, January 25, 2015

Good is Dumb

"So Lone Starr, you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb."

So says Dark Helmet to Lone Starr in the movie Spaceballs after he's tricked him for the umpteenth time.

But it could just as easily be FIFA czar Sepp Blatter speaking to Abby Wambach or Megan Rapinoe or Marta.  Because this week came the news that evil had indeed triumphed once again over good as the 84 women soccer players who had filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario over FIFA's insistence that this year's Women's World Cup be played exclusively on artificial turf had abandoned their lawsuit.

Basically, FIFA broke all the rules when it comes to conducting litigation, yet, in the end, it won. Again.

It refused to mediate with the players after being ordered to by the Tribunal. It refused to even meet with the players' counsel. It was accused of, and may well have, coerced the national teams of the players who filed the complaint into discriminating against those who participated in the lawsuit.

But in the end its tactics of stalling, blackmailing, and just bald-faced lying about turf and soccer and inequality among the sexes wore down the women and won the day for evil.

"I am hopeful that the players' willingness to contest the unequal playing fields -
and the tremendous pubic support we received during the effort - marks the start
of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women's sports."
Abby Wambach (photo from

So much for the thought that the rule of law would prevail where reason, negotiation, investigation, and public ridicule had failed. The players' lawsuit, however well-founded, however compelling, again failed to bring FIFA to a public accounting. We were dumb to think that this time the result would be different.

Usually, when I write a post like this one, I try to include links to other articles and posts to demonstrate that I'm not just making this stuff up. But when it comes to FIFA, I've decided that's pointless. It makes stuff up all the time, doesn't play by the rules, and still wins. Every time.

Ultimately, the players say that they abandoned their complaint because they, unlike FIFA, were "putting soccer first" and realized that the lawsuit, at this late date, could have no positive effect. And they were correct. It became obvious that FIFA would have abandoned the tournament altogether rather than admit that a court of law has authority over it, and rather than making the simple accommodation that it had made before for men's World Cups by installing temporary grass fields.

No, it is clear that only one thing motivates FIFA, that it will bow to only one master not ensconced in its palaces in Geneva.


Lots of it.

Perhaps, completely apart from the plight of its women players, the tide may be turning. Not for the women in 2015, but for the men in 2018 or 2022.

This week came news that three "second-tier" sponsors of the 2014 Men's World Cup were not renewing their sponsorships for the next two World Cups. Presumably because of the rampant corruption that marked the bidding processes that allowed Russia and Qatar to steal the right to host the next two World Cups.

FIFA insists that this is business as usual and that there are other suitors lined up to replace Castrol, Johnson & Johnson, and Continental. Perhaps.

But we can only hope that this is the dawn of a new era. Clearly FIFA will continue to operate above the law as long as the bottom line is satisfied. But maybe, just maybe, there won't be new shills ponying up millions to replace those that have finally had enough.

A fat lot of good that will do the women who play on fake grass this summer in Canada, knowing that their male counterparts will not be required to do the same in Russia in 2018 or Qatar in 2022.

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