MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC

Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer interacts with fans before a game against D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer issued a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday to clarify controversial comments he made in a recently published article in which he twice described equal pay for men’s and women’s athletes as “ridiculous.”

The story was published on Tuesday by The Guardian. Though de Boer did say that female athletes should be paid what they deserve based upon the revenue their sports produce, he said the idea as of now “was ridiculous” because of his perceived revenue discrepancies.

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.”

Atlanta United plays for the Campeones Cup against Club America at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday night.

“If it’s just as popular as the men, they will get it, because the income and the advertising will go into that,” de Boer was quoted in the Guardian. “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.”

De Boer could receive a muted reception in the Campeones Cup, a nationally televised game in which at least 40,000 people are expected to attend.

Atlanta United President Darren Eales went on 92.9 FM on Tuesday to quickly and specifically claim that de Boer’s comments were his own and didn’t reflect the club or its beliefs.

“To be crystal clear, our club is now and always will be in supporting equality of strong values and lifting each other up,” Eales said. “We want to grow the game of soccer for all to enjoy, and that’s what we stand for. As you guys know, that’s the value that (owner) Arthur (Blank) is known for, and it’s really the core of his personal and business philosophy.”

De Boer wasn’t asked about his comments on Tuesday in the press conference previewing Wednesday’s game.

The story in The Guardian isn’t the first time that de Boer’s comments have drawn criticism. After his team failed to defeat expansion club Cincinnati on March 10, he described Atlanta United’s fans as spoiled, referring to the success and attacking the style of play under previous manager Gerardo Martino. Atlanta United was 1-3-1 after the draw.

De Boer apologized two days later. He said spoiled in his native language of Dutch doesn’t have the same connotation as it does in English. De Boer also speaks Spanish.

De Boer does sometime struggle with finding the correct words in English. It is a common occurrence in his press conferences, whether it’s a specific word or phrase.

Eales said on Tuesday that “ridiculous” may have been misinterpreted by de Boer, but that it was a “poor, misguided” use of the word.

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