Celebrating More Than the World Cup
By Kala Herh
After a monumental 2-0 win for the U.S. Women’s National Team during the eighth Women’s World Cup, there is only one fitting reward: equal pay. After battling with a hard-hitting Netherland defense in the first half, team captian Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle scored one goal each. The game ended with free-flowing tears, baths in gold confetti, and Rapinoe standing in her characteristic triumphant pose — a moment frozen in time, shrouded in true and unwavering defiance. Whether or not you’re a soccer fan, there’s a lot to celebrate here.
This is the fifth time that the United States Women’s Team played in the World Cup final (out of eight tournaments). Since the beginning of the season, the team has been in a head-to-head battle with not only the top international teams, but also with inequality. While men earn a base salary of $5,000 per game, women players earn $3,600. In 2015, the US Soccer Federation distributed $1.7 million to the women’s team and $5.4 million for the men’s team (who lost after losing in the round of 16). Since when does 16th place earn more than the world champions?
In response to these injustices, 28 members of the current US women’s team — less than three months before they played the first game against Thailand — sued their own federation on the basis of gender discrimination. In itself, a courageous act. “I’m not sure our team would have done that,” said former player Julie Foudy, referring to her own seminal 1999 U.S. team that also won the World Cup. “We wouldn’t want all that noise. I respect that they’re willing to absorb all that.” The suit goes beyond pay disparity and also deals with unequal training conditions, medical benefits, and travel accommodations compared to the men’s team.
There is no doubt that equal pay is the goal, and the public is already declaring their support. During the trophy ceremony, the deafening noise of the crowd’s “equal pay” chant sent shockwaves throughout the stadium and beyond — vibrating the importance of the issue that was embedded in Sunday’s match.
In a time when critics argue sports should remain an untainted form of escapism, the current women’s team has never shied away from political discourse. At the beginning of the tournament, Megan Rapinoe drew attention not only for her exceptional footwork on the field but also for her outspokenness on her political views. In response to whether the team would visit the White House after winning, she said, “I’m not going to the f-cking White House.” This viral video attracted the attention of President Trump, who tweeted, “I am a big fan of the American Team and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!”
Shortly after the unforgettable feat in Lyon, President Trump commented again saying that male and female athletes should be paid the same, “but you’ve got to look at the numbers.” Comments like these insinuate that women’s soccer does not have the potential to be as profitable or even as desirable as its male counterparts. Despite being plagued by inconceivable odds, the women’s team triumphed. This year, women’s soccer set the record for being the most popular tournament ever with the FIFA Council estimating that around 1 billion people tuned in for the matches. This year, women’s games generated more total ticket revenue than the 2018 men’s games; all this year’s games sold out within 48 hours. This year, the US women team’s jersey became the highest-selling soccer jersey on the Nike website in one season. Talk about numbers.
As the US team returns home as four-time champions, they continue a legacy of a seemingly endless stream of great American players who have driven the program forward for a generation. In the case of women’s soccer, these players challenge the centuries-long myth that women aren’t able to compete, aren’t worth watching, or aren’t deserving of equal pay. These women didn’t wait for their moment — they commanded it. They showed the country, and most importantly the young girls who reside in it, what real power is made of.
Cid Roberts’s website can be found here.