The record-breaking US women’s soccer team have landed back on home soil with their trophy - and their bold, joyous celebrations prove we need to see women celebrating their victories in public.
They’ve got talent, they’ve broken records, and they’ve raised the profile of women’s football to new levels following their outstanding victory in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. By all accounts, the US women’s soccer team are champions of the world right now, and not just for successfully defending their World Cup title for a fourth time.
But even as the trailblazing athletes of the USWNT celebrate their victory back on home soil, they’re still putting social justice at the forefront of their push for progress.
That’s what the US women’s soccer team did when they returned home for a celebratory ticker tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes in New York City, taking their moment in the spotlight to raise the issue of equal pay once more.
In case you need a refresh, 28 members of the US women’s soccer team are currently fighting a federal lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation over alleged gender discrimination and unequal pay. Despite their record-breaking performance, and the fact that in the middle of the World Cup, it emerged that the women’s soccer games now actually generate more revenue than the men’s games, their male counterparts are still paid significantly more. One look at the World Cup prize money - $30 million for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, compared to $400 million for the men’s 2018 World cup prize - is enough to tell you that something is seriously amiss.
The USWNT aren’t going to let the inequity fall to the wayside any time soon, though. According to The New York Times, star players including Crystal Dunn and Tobin Heath chanted “equal pay” from one of the players floats, inspiring the watching crowds to join in with them. Proving their commitment to using their platform for advocacy, one notable poster from the champions even read, “Parades are cool; equal pay is cooler.”
Meanwhile, it was reported that ahead of the parade, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legalisation eliminating a “loophole” that he said still allows gender discrimination in pay for the same jobs. “It’s not just the right thing to do,” he told ABC News. “It’s not just the moral thing to do, it is also the law in the State of New York.”
Elsewhere, New York City Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Bill de Blasio told crowds that if he were elected, one of his first acts of power would be amending the Amateur Sports Act to ensure that women’s and men’s national sports teams were paid the same, meaning the US Soccer Federation would be required to compensate the women’s and men’s soccer teams fairly.
“Champions of the world deserve to be paid their fair share,” de Blasio said. “The US Women’s National Team shouldn’t have to fight for equality in this day and age and its outrageous that they still have to fight for equal compensation. Title IX was simply the beginning, and under my administration, I will do everything in my power to make sure working women and young girls know they are on the same playing field.”
Elsewhere, firebrand co-captain and star midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who made headlines throughout the World Cup for clashing with Donald Trump and defiantly refusing to visit the White House should her team win the title, delivered a speech celebrating her team’s sense of community.
“This group is so resilient, is so tough, has such a sense of humour, is just so badass,” Rapinoe told the crowds. “We got tea sipping. We got celebrations. We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos, dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls, hey!”
Rapinoe, who won the tournament’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball, also encouraged people to work to improve the lives of others in the community. “We have to be better,” she said. “We have to love more, hate less, listen more, talk less. We got to know this is everybody’s responsibility,” she said. “Its our responsibility to make this world a better place.”
Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was more outspoken on the issue of equal pay, posting an Instagram story in which she crunched pages of the team’s lawsuit to use as confetti in the parade. “Pay us, bitch,” she says, as midfielder Allie Long screws up a whole page and puts it in her mouth.
In a world that tells women to be smaller, quieter, and take up less space, the USWNT’s joyful celebrations and fierce activism is a show-and-tell we could all learn from. Women who speak up for the right of women to be paid equally? Women loudly, proudly and publicly celebrating their hard-won victories? Women who are passionate, unapologetic, and are always completely themselves? That’s something worth celebrating.