Loretta Lynch takes on FIFA as the face of the U.S.' investigation
She is the face behind the United States government's crackdown on FIFA and has been called one of the most influential women in the history of soccer. But ask U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch's kin if she's passionate about football, or any sport, and they're hard-pressed to answer.
The Rev. Lorenzo Lynch Sr., her father, had to put down the phone and ask his wife if Loretta played any sports growing up in North Carolina.
"She took typing," Lorenzo Lynch said. "She's one of the fastest typists I've met in my life."
On May 27, in a news conference that reverberated around the world, the 56-year-old attorney general announced indictments against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives and vowed to end corruption in soccer's global governing body.
Lynch had been on the job for only a month. But she supervised the long-running investigation from the beginning, when she was the U.S. attorney for New York's Eastern District.
Lynch prosecuted terrorists, gang members and rogue cops in her days in the Eastern District's Brooklyn office, but she'd never had a case with this a high profile, or as far-reaching. Within days of the announcement, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced his intention to leave the position he had held since 1998.
Blatter has not been charged with any crimes, but the corruption under his watch, according to the indictment, included charges of racketeering, bribery, fraud and money laundering.
"They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest," Lynch said in her news conference, "and to protect the integrity of the game. Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves."
"Fearless" is a word colleagues use when talking about Loretta Lynch, and she probably inherited that trait from her father, a Baptist preacher who fought for civil rights in the South.
Lorenzo and his wife, Lorine, watched their daughter wait five grueling months to be confirmed by the Senate as United States attorney general. Lynch was unflappable during the confirmation hearings. She kept her late brother Lorenzo Jr.'s Navy SEAL trident medal on the witness table.
Lynch and her two brothers grew up one block from a library in Durham and spent their summers devouring books. They'd walk down the street with piles of hardcovers under their arms. When Loretta was in elementary school, she did so well on a standardized test that she was asked to take it over. When she took the test again, she did even better.
Money was tight growing up and Lynch sewed and made her own school clothes. She once asked her father what he would be if he wasn't a preacher. He said he always wanted to be a lawyer, but now has no idea if that influenced her.
"I think she just grew up watching my father's work in the community years ago with civil rights, just standing up for what was humanly right," her brother Leonzo said. "That takes a lot of courage, but she always grew up with it."
Lynch turned down a scholarship at North Carolina to go to Harvard. Despite her high-profile jobs along the way, Lynch has always preferred to stay in the background, but one of her friends from Harvard Law School, Annette Gordon-Reid, always thought Lynch would wind up running something. She said Lynch was interested in public service and pursuing justice even then.
ESPN FC'S 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN FOOTBALL
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- Marcotti: The power is ultimately derived from the fans
- Brassell: Jorge Mendes -- A national hero in Portugal
- Chaudhary: Jerome Valcke -- The man who makes FIFA tick
- Kuper: Johan Cruyff -- Modern game's father fades from view
- Honigstein: Pep Guardiola -- Bayern boss has more to prove
- Mitten: Gary Neville -- From playing to punditry, coaching
- Merrill: Loretta Lynch -- The face of the FIFA investigation
Back in North Carolina, Lorenzo Lynch doesn't like to talk to his daughter about her cases. He watched her news conference in late May and, like any father would, became worried.
"I'm ashamed to think what went through my head because I should keep it to myself," he said. "But what went through my head is she has one of the best positions in the Cabinet to get killed. When you start cutting off money from foreign people and foreign governments, you're really bordering on danger."
He watched the political commentators talk about Loretta. He said one of the commentators asked what they had learned, and another said: "I've learned that Loretta Lynch is not afraid."
The world of soccer was shaken up thanks to some lawyers in Brooklyn, and Lynch is fine. She's not afraid.