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U.S. women’s soccer stars discuss wage-discrimination complaint

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Five star U.S. women’s soccer players are filing a wage-discrimination complaint against U.S. Soccer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking equal pay with their male counterparts.

U.S. Olympic champions Carli LloydHope SoloAlex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn appeared on TODAY to discuss the move Thursday morning (video here). Megan Rapinoe was also involved in the complaint.

U.S. women are paid between $3,600 and $4,950 per game, while men receive $6,250 to $17,625. Women receive 44 percent of what their male counterparts earn for making the World Cup team, according to TODAY, citing the complaint.

“We’ve proven our worth over the years,” said Lloyd, whose hat trick propelled the U.S. to victory in the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final. “The pay disparity between men and women is just too large. We want to continue to fight. The generation of players before us fought, and now it’s our job to keep on fighting.”

Solo said “not much has changed” with regards to equal-pay issues in the decade-plus she’s been on the national team.

“We’ve continued to be told we should be grateful just to have an opportunity to play professional soccer,” Solo said. “It’s about equality. It’s about equal rights. It’s about equal pay.”

Their attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, said that players were told “it was irrational” when they asked for the same treatment as men’s players.

Morgan was asked by Matt Lauer if players would boycott games or strike.

“I think that’s why we’re here taking this action and filing this complaint,” Morgan responded ahead of the Rio Olympics, which begin Aug. 3 for women’s soccer. “Every single day we sacrifice just as much as the men. We work just as much. We endure just as much physically and emotionally. Our fans really do appreciate us every day for that. We saw that with the high last summer. We’re asking and demanding now that our federation, our employer really, step up and appreciate us as well.”

On TODAY, the players laughed when asked if they had heard from male players.

“I’m sure they are in support of us,” said Morgan, whose husband, Servando Carrasco, plays in MLS.

Kessler said that in 2015 the U.S. women’s national team made over $16 million for U.S. Soccer, while the men’s team caused a $2 million loss. Last year was a World Cup year for the women, but not for the men.

“We are disappointed about this action,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. “We have been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”

MORE: Carli Lloyd ranks Olympic final-winning goals, World Cup hat trick

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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