While being introduced as an investor in the new MLS franchise in Los Angeles, Mia Hamm renewed her call for FIFA to provide grass playing fields for the 2015 Women's World Cup.
"It's the biggest tournament with your brightest stars," Hamm says.
More than 60 women soccer players have sued FIFA for discrimination. Part of their case is that all 20 men's World Cup tournament were staged on grass. The upcoming Women's World Cup in Canada will be played on artificial turf, and Hamm is among the most prominent soccer figures to pan that decision. She says she understands that weather in Canada is a legitimate factor, but that shouldn't be enough for turf to prevail over grass.
"For this tournament you want to see the best players playing on natural surface," Hamm says. "You want to the surface that the men get to play on to be the same for the women."
To defend its decision, FIFA trotted out a field expert named Eric Harrison for a Q-&-A on its official website. Part of Harrison's explanation was this: "A late winter would bring incredible pressure to bear on preparing such grounds for the Women’s World Cup. The majority of stadiums in Canada have accepted that only (artificial) turf is a credible surface to meet the demands of the weather and usage to which they wish to subject the fields."
But Los Angeles Times sports reporter Kevin Baxter poked holes through that premise. Baxter wrote:
"That's not entirely true. Winters are also severe in Germany and Sweden, and both countries have hosted women's world championships on grass fields. And while five of the six stadiums the Canadians proposed for the World Cup had artificial fields, two of those surfaces -- at Vancouver's B.C. Place, site of the July 5 final, and Montreal's Olympic Stadium -- are largely unaffected by weather since the winters in Vancouver are mild and the stadium in Montreal has a roof.
"The sixth venue, at the University of Moncton in Moncton, New Brunswick, had a grass field that World Cup organizers originally liked but eventually ripped out in favor of an artificial surface.
"Meanwhile, suitable natural-grass fields, such as BMO Field in Toronto, which replaced its artificial surface with Kentucky bluegrass four years ago, and Saputo Stadium in Montreal, were ignored."
In an interview with the New York Times in August, U.S. Women's National Team all-time leading goal scorer Abby Wambach said:
"It's a gender issue through and through ... This being the pinnacle of our sport, we feel like we should be treated just like the men."
Kobe Bryant tweeted his support to the women fighting FIFA to get rid of turf at the World Cup:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 13, 2014
Aside from the equality issue, there are also the reports of the troubling link between the "crumb rubber" in artificial turf and cancer.