Interviews

Sunil Gulati on Trump, 2026 World Cup bid, USWNT CBA, Klinsmann, Pulisic and NASL

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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On the NWSL and surviving the CBA negotiations…

The league survived when some national team players were missing at the World Cup and the Olympics and the league will survive and we’re committed to making that happen. I’m also confident we’ll get a CBA done in time for all of the events that we want to see happen, whether it’s for the national team or for the league.

… I’m more confident in the future of the NWSL now than I have ever been.

There is a right to freedom speech, she also has the obligations to putting on a national team uniform. And we think those are pretty strong when you’re representing the U.S. national team and wearing the crest."

- Gulati on Rapinoe

On Rapinoe taking a knee and the difficulty of balancing freedom of speech with U.S. Soccer’s  desire to strike the right tone…

I think our board feels quite strongly that there is a difference between playing for your club and your country on this issue. And we’ll see how that all plays out. We have a board meeting next month. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what the First Amendment actually says, in terms of freedom of speech. Yes, Megan or [Colin] Kaepernick or anyone else can’t get prosecuted for criminal charges for freedom of speech. That is not the case in any membership organization or any employment area or anything else. And so there is that point to start with. There is a right to freedom speech, she also has the obligations to putting on a national team uniform. And we think those are pretty strong when you’re representing the U.S. national team and wearing the crest.

Do you see Hope Solo back with the U.S. women’s team?

It’s up to Jill Ellis and Hope Solo. We don’t make coaching decisions on who is part of the team.

A year and a half after the Women’s World Cup and seeing how other sports leagues have handled domestic violence, in hindsight are you comfortable with how you handled that situation in the summer of 2015?

That’s a difficult one, because we’ve put in some additional measures after the fact. Which all the other leagues have done as well. What I would say is in general governance terms, organizations far bigger, far more sophisticated and far more economically viable – and we’re quite viable – weren’t prepared to deal with the issues they faced, including the NFL. They’ve got hundreds and hundreds of employees and so on. The NBA has maybe dealt with it in different ways.

So I think we dealt with it in the best way we could. Certainly obviously it was the best way we were equipped to. But I don’t think the presumption of innocence is a bad place to start. Realizing full well in those other cases it wasn’t necessarily a criminal charge that led to discipline. But in this case we had very different facts, fact pattern, on two sides. So we were in a position where we had to make a decision. This wasn’t obvious, something happened, it’s clear on video tape and it’s only a question of what you do about it. So I’m comfortable with that. Would we do some different things in the process? The answer is yes. We learned from that.

Are you at a place as an organization to internal investigations, like the NFL?

Yes, but that’s been formalized and enhanced since not only our own incident but the other incidents. With a process, with the selection of a subcommittee the board oversees, we’ve got an outside law firm that looks at it, does interviews and so on. And we did some of those after the fact as part of the whole process leading up to the World Cup.

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Paul Tenorio is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTenorio.