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Megan Rapinoe slams Lyon’s ‘utterly disgraceful’ maternity stance

“The culture at OL in France has a LONG way to go," said Megan Rapinoe, who plays for sister club OL Reign. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports)

Megan Rapinoe slammed Olympique Lyonnais for their treatment of a former player. The French club withheld pay from the player during her pregnancy.

Rapinoe called the treatment “utterly disgraceful.” The veteran U.S. women’s national team forward plays for Lyon’s sister team in the NWSL, OL Reign.

“The culture at OL in France has a LONG way to go. Y’all love to talk about how much you support women, but this math is not mathing,” she wrote. “I implore you to be the club that is ALWAYS supporting women, not the club that once did.”

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, who is now with Juventus, played for Lyon from 2020-22. During her tenure with the team, she became pregnant. While initially supportive, Lyon later withheld pay and did not remain in contact with her throughout her pregnancy.

Lyon cited it as an issue with French law, but FIFA rules established in late 2020 dictate that players receive pregnancy and maternity leave.

While Gunnarsdóttir eventually took the issue to international players union FIFPRO, she was told she wouldn’t have a future with the club if she were to take the issue to FIFA.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around that. I was just shocked,” Gunnarsdóttir wrote for The Players Tribune. “And I’ll be honest, I was hurt. The whole situation made me feel crazy. How could any team get away with this?”

The Icelandic star later returned to the club, but she was told she couldn’t bring her son on away trips.

“The understanding between us just was not there, and I felt that,” she wrote. “They always made me feel like it was a negative thing that I had a baby.”

Gunnarsdóttir and FIFPRO won a lawsuit against the club, which was ordered to pay her full salary of more than €82,000 plus interest.

Per FIFA, the club failed to follow the “duty of care,” noting their lack of contact with the player during her pregnancy.

“No one was really checking on me, following up, seeing how I was doing mentally and physically, both as an employee, but also as a human being,” Gunnarsdóttir wrote. “Basically, they had a responsibility to look after me, and they didn’t.”

Other maternity policies also have come under fire recently. Emma Mukandi, who plays for Reading in the Women’s Super League, has criticized the English Football Association, which only guarantees new mothers 14 weeks of full play. The policy is also discriminatory toward poorer clubs, as new mothers receive less support, she said.

“If you’ve got loads of money at Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, you’ve got loads of great facilities, having a baby there is not an issue at all,” she told BBC Sport. “But the lower down the leagues you go and then money comes into it and facilities, then it’s easier for clubs and CEOs to be like, ‘No, this isn’t happening.'”