ATLANTA - As Atlanta United prepares to play an historic match tonight at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the team's manager is facing some backlash this morning.
In an interview with The Guardian, manager Frank de Boer called equal pay for men and women in international soccer "ridiculous."
De Boer said he doesn't believe in equal pay because the audiences and revenue generated are not the same.
"It's the same like tennis. If there are watching, for the World Cup final, 500 million people or something like that, and 100 million for a women's final, that's a difference. So it's not the same. And of course they have to be paid what they deserve to [earn] and not less, just what they really deserve." he told the Guardian.
"If it's just as popular as the men, they will get it, because the income and the advertising will go into that. But it's not like that, so why do they have to earn the same? I think it's ridiculous. I don't understand that."
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De Boer's comments were in response to a question about a decision made by the Netherlands, where the manager is from.
The Netherlands soccer federation pledged to raise women's pay to make it even with men by the next Women's World Cup.
The debate over equal pay picked up again after the United States defeated the Netherlands in the Women's World Cup in June.
The U.S. victory sparked a movement that has gone beyond the field, leading to a lawsuit and even legislation introduced to Congress requiring equal pay for the national teams.
Atlanta United President Darren Eales spoke to 92.9 the Game Tuesday about de Boer's equal pay comments.
Eales said it's de Boer's individual opinion and does not reflect the position of Atlanta United club and its leadership.
The team president also told the station that de Boer made a poor choice of words using "ridiculous" and that he will have to explain his comments.
In his statement Wednesday, issued through the team, de Boer said:
"I'd like to clarify my comments in yesterday's Guardian story. When taken in its full context, my position is that I wholly respect and support the women's game and am encouraged and excited by its growth both internationally and here in the U.S. I do believe when it comes to the economics of the game, as popularity keeps increasing it will lead to increased revenue and higher salaries in the women's game, which is fantastic and what we all want to see. I am proud to be a part of a club that embraces equality, and I apologize for any distraction this has become for our team and organization."