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Tom Hanks sides with players in FIFA Women’s World Cup turf debate

Tom Hanks prefers natural surfaces. (Reuters)

First it was Kobe Bryant. Now Tom Hanks is joining forces with a group of soccer players set to play in next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. A group of about 40 players wrote a letter to FIFA complaining about the use of artificial turf on the fields.

It seems the issue is not going away, although it’s kind of sad that it takes famous men to make the female players’ complaints go viral. That said, the complaints are real.

The World Cup players retained legal counsel earlier this summer to compose the letter, which outlined their concerns about the use of artificial turf.

The letter, a copy of which was attained by The Washington Post from Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, calls the turf a “second class surface,” and alleges its use to be “gender discrimination that violates European charters and numerous provisions of Canadian law, including human rights codes and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“It really goes down to this: The men would never play a World Cup on turf, so why should the women? It’s the same tournament. It’s the World Cup,” U.S. forward Sydney Leroux, one of the players who signed the letter, told the Associated Press. “It’s the biggest thing that we have for soccer. Why would we play on something that’s not real?”

Earlier this month, Bryant, whose sports drink company BodyArmor SuperDrink hired Leroux as a spokesperson, tweeted a picture of Leroux’s beat-up legs and claimed it was the result of playing on artificial turf.

FIFA, meanwhile, as well as the Canadian Soccer Association, who also received a copy of the complaints, has refused to comment publicly on the letter, except for acknowledging that they got it. In the past, however, both entities have stood behind the decision to use artificial turf in all the Women’s World Cup stadiums.

“This is for the future,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter told reporters (via The Equalizer) before the 2014 U-20 World Cup kicked off last month. “If now there is a category of players or coaches, they are not used to this new technology, which is this turf. They say at the first instance, they say it’s not good. But it’s good.”

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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