By Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Football Writer
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of the FOX Sports Series celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which was adopted on June 23, 1972. created and recognizing the barriers that still remain.
Date is March 12, 2020. The emergence of the new coronavirus has put the world at a standstill, leaving millions of people around the world isolated from each other.
Schools and offices around the world are about to close indefinitely. Most sports have already faded into obscurity; MLB, MLS, NCAA, NHL and PGA have suspended their seasons, canceled or postponed their tournaments, following the NBA’s lead a day earlier. Almost everyone experiences shock to one degree or another.
Cindy Parlow Cone is stunned again. US Football President Carlos Cordeiro will step down tonight amid backlash over a lawsuit that denigrates the ability of players on the world champion women’s soccer team. His resignation would make Koné, once a strong linebacker for the iconic 1999 USWNT and vice president of Cordeiro at the time, the new president and the first woman to hold the post.
It was a job she never dreamed of even under normal circumstances.
“I was literally like, dammit,” Cone said in a recent interview with FOX Sports. “An abusive lawsuit just came out. The whole world was angry at American football. Sponsors are threatening to leave. And now we have a global pandemic and we don’t know when we will have another match or when.” income will start to come back. Oh, and we didn’t have a CEO or commercial director.
“I don’t know if there is a worse day to be president. But I wasn’t going to dodge the challenge.”
Just over two years later, Cone is being hailed by some as nothing short of a hero. She has been re-elected twice to an unpaid position, including earlier this year when Cordeiro stood the test of regaining his former seat.
And most importantly, she did what no one else had done before: she negotiated with the USWNT on an equal pay lawsuit and entered into identical collective bargaining agreements with the women’s and men’s national teams, which guarantee both teams equal compensation and prize money in the future. . This is an unprecedented achievement in women’s football.
This probably wouldn’t have happened without Cone at the helm. “When she was vice president, she made offers to players just to start a dialogue and create a relationship,” said USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who hadn’t known Cone that well before. “I think it made it a lot easier when we were negotiating.”
Doing unsightly work behind the scenes and doing important little things that sometimes go unnoticed was also how Cone approached her career as a player. On a 99ers team filled with big-time personalities like Julie Foody, Mia Hamm and Carla Overbeck, Cone wasn’t supposed to be the face of the team. She had the freedom to just do her job.
“No one cared whether I played well or badly. They only cared if Mia scored or not,” said Cone, who describes herself as “extremely introverted.” “We had so many strong leaders that it was okay for me to be a quiet kid and contribute when I could.
“But,” she added, “I learned so much from them and through other experiences that when it came time to lead, I was ready.”
She must be. Relations between the federation and the USWNT soured when Cone replaced Cordeiro. She may have been a former player, but the current dressing room also treated her with a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, she now represented leadership during negotiations.
However, her athletic background and, yes, her gender brought a level of credibility to the table that was lacking. Her presence alone mattered.
“The fact that the president of one of the largest and most famous federations in the world is a woman is a big statement,” said former USWNT coach Jill Ellis.
However, this goes so far. Trust still had to be earned over time. So Cone made it a point to do whatever she said and not promise anything she couldn’t deliver. Sauerbrunn said this direct approach was more important to the deal than Cone’s status as a former professional.
“She’s just a no-bull person that I have a lot of respect for,” Sauerbrunn said. “She was honest with us, so the line of communication remained open. When the lawyers weren’t in the room, we could talk to each other.”
“Cindy has always been available,” said Portland Thorns general manager Karina LeBlanc, who Cone coached with the 2013 NWSL Cup-winning Thorns and has known her for over 20 years. “I can sit down and talk to her about anything.”
While Kone’s personality is understated, she has never been shy about pursuing her goals. At 13, she decided that she would attend the University of North Carolina on a football scholarship. Four years later, she succeeded.
This steely determination came in handy as president of the USSF. Initially, Cone only intended to remain in the role until early 2021. She had to be persuaded to stay until the end of the year unopposed.
Running a second time was an easier decision; she did not want to leave her post until the lawsuit was resolved and new cooperation agreements for the national teams were signed. USSF settled the first in February for $24 million; The CBAs were signed last month.
“Now I can start working on expanding the game,” Cone said.
US Soccer, USWNT, USMNT agree on historic equal pay deal
The US Football Federation has announced a historic agreement with USMNT and USWNT whereby all athletes will receive equal payouts, including equal shares of World Cup bonuses. Colin Cowherd reacts to the news.
With almost four full years left before her deadline, there is still a lot of work to be done. One of her goals is to create opportunities for others to follow in her footsteps.
“In almost every room I go into, I am the only woman,” Cone said. “I’m proud to be this woman, but there should be more.”
It’s something LeBlanc and Cone have talked about every time their paths have crossed in recent years.
“As far as I know anything about Cindy, she will continue to fight to push women’s football forward,” said LeBlanc, who led CONCACAF women’s football before taking over the Thorns last fall. “She is an example of why it is so important to keep ex-players in the game. If the same people always sit at the table, it will be difficult to grow. Elite athletes know what it’s like to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
Kone certainly understands that he is part of a successful team. “I want to work hard and do everything in my power to achieve any goal, be it winning the World Championship or doing the CBA,” she said.
Now she has done both.
“Her presence there led to the CBA and the settlement across the line,” Sauerbrunn said. “I think eventually we would have achieved it, but probably not during my career. She definitely got us there a lot faster.”
Considering the long list of challenges Cone faced when she inherited the position two years ago, what she has accomplished is even more impressive.
“She made a conscious decision to be a voice, to be visible, and to create a community,” Ellis said. “Cindy was incredibly brave.”
And her success was no coincidence – even if the position of president of US Soccer was not originally included in her plans.
Doug McIntyre, one of North America’s leading football journalists, has covered the US men’s and women’s teams at several World Cups. Prior to joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff correspondent for ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ByDougMcIntyre.
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