March 12 (UPI) -- Members of the United States Women's National Team protested language used in court filings by the U.S. Soccer Federation by wearing their shirts inside out before a game against Japan.
In the recent filing, the federation's legal representatives had argued that male players are superior physically and have more responsibility than female players because international men's soccer is more competitive and has tournaments that generate better revenue.
The federation also said the job of a men's national team player "requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength" than the job of a women's player.
The protest occurred before the SheBelieves Cup final Wednesday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Federation lawyers had used the controversial language Monday as part of a filing for a motion for summary judgement in the lawsuit filed by players from the women's team.
The suit, filed in March, initially included 28 players who alleged that the federation used "institutionalized gender discrimination" toward the women's team. It was filed under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The plaintiffs were granted class status in November, meaning players from 2015 to the present day can be represented. Seventy-two women have opted into the class.
The language the federation used was met with backlash on social media and from federation sponsors, including Coca-Cola and Deloitte.
Women's players responded by wearing their warm-up shirts -- featuring U.S. logos -- inside out during the national anthem before Wednesday's game. They then beat Japan 3-1 and captured their third SheBelieves Cup title in five years.
Federation president Carlos Cordeiro apologized for the language used in the filings in a statement released during the final minutes of the game.
"On behalf of [the federation], I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain caused by language in this week's court filing, which did not reflect the values of our federation or our tremendous admiration of our women's team," Cordeiro said in the statement.
"Our [women's] players are incredibly talented and work tirelessly, as they have demonstrated time and again from their Olympic gold medals to their World Cup titles."
Cordeiro also announced changes to the federation's legal team, adding the firm Latham & Watkins to guide the federation's "legal strategy going forward."
"I have made it clear to our legal team that even as we debate facts and figures in the course of this case, we must do so with the utmost respect not only for our women's [team players], but for all female athletes around the world," Cordeiro said.
The players filed a motion in February, asking Judge Gary Klausner to issue a summary judgment, award them $66.7 million and cancel a trial in their equal pay lawsuit against the federation. The federation filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed in its entirety.
The players and federation are on track for a May 5 trial, just before the 2020 Summer Olympics. If Klausner does not approve either motion, the lawsuit will proceed.
"The team was very upset, obviously," U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe told reporters Wednesday. "We have sort of felt that those are some of the undercurrent feelings that [the federation has] had for a long time, but to see that as the argument -- sort of blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us is really disappointing."
She added: "I just want to say it's all false. To every girl out there, to every boy out there, who watches this team, who wants to be on this team or just wants to live their dream out, you are not lesser just because you are a girl.
"You are not better just because you are a boy. We are all created equal and should have the equal opportunity to go out and pursue our dreams."