The US women’s national soccer team took home their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup on Sunday. And as the team took its victory lap and FIFA President Gianni Infantino crossed the field to greet the champions, the crowd at the Stade de Lyon in France met them not with predictable cheers and applause, but fervent calls for the women to receive “equal pay!”
The crowd’s powerful chant was a poignant reminder that even as celebrated champions, female athletes are still not treated as equals in their industry.
The team was led to victory by co-captains Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, who, together with 26 other members of the 2015 women’s national team, filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation alleging gender discrimination in March.
Despite the fact that the revenue from US women’s soccer games has exceeded that generated by US men’s games since 2016, the female athletes have been paid much less than their male counterparts. In some cases, female players were paid just 38% of what their male peers earned per game.
The US team was already favored to win the competition, yet the team played as if they had everything to lose. And, in light of the ongoing battle for equal pay, another championship win meant they had everything to gain.
“Even though we shouldn’t need success to fight for equality, having success gives us the platform to fight for equality,” Morgan said before the tournament, according to Time.
And their success on the field throughout the competition has certainly helped the issue gain attention.
More than 50 members of Congress wrote a letter to the president of the US Soccer Federation on July 3 condemning gender discriminatory practices in the sport, requesting justification for differences in the teams’ compensation, and asking to see a plan to address inequities in the sport.
Infantino on Friday proposed doubling the prize money for the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will take place in 2023. However, even a doubled women’s prize would still be substantially less than the men’s prize.
“At this moment of tremendous pride for America, the sad equation remains all too clear, and Americans won’t stand for it anymore,” Molly Levinson, the spokesperson for the players represented in the equal pay lawsuit, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings but get paid less simply because they are women. It is time for the Federation to correct this disparity once and for all.”
That sentiment was echoed by retired national player Abby Wambach, who has advocated for pay parity and gender equality in the sport for many years.
“We all just watched brilliant, brazen, united, joyful, unapologetic women — scoring, speaking out, and celebrating on the world stage. Today, this team showed America what’s possible: no — they showed us what is INEVITABLE: women will lead us. And will win. And we won’t keep our mouths shut about inequality any longer,” Wambach told Time via text message.
“Now pay them,” she added.
And many more agreed on social media.
Congratulations to the #USWNT on their 4th World Cup win! These athletes have brought more attention, support, & pride to women’s sport than perhaps any other team in history. It is long past time to pay them what they rightly deserve. 🇺🇸🏆🏆🏆🏆 #USAvNED#WorldCupfinal#EqualPay— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) July 7, 2019
Let’s talk about this pay inequity. The women get $250,000 for their win. And if the men won? They’d get $1.1 million: https://t.co/NJKl7qpm6Q— Emma (@EmmaDiltz) July 7, 2019
Congratulations to the repeat champions, @USWNT! You have shown great skill, team spirit, confidence and overall excellence, and you are true roll models for standing up for #equalpay. #LaGrandeFinale#USANED#USAhttps://t.co/UCftZQC33m— Phumzile Mlambo (@phumzileunwomen) July 8, 2019
Following the team’s win, Nike, which sponsored the US team and 13 others in the competition, released an inspiring ad celebrating the women and calling for their achievements to be recognized beyond the World Cup stage.
“I believe that we will make our voices heard and TV shows will be talking about us every single day and not just once every four years,” an impassioned voiceover for the ad says.
“And that women will conquer more than just the soccer field, like breaking every single glass ceiling and having their faces carved on Mount Rushmore, and that we’ll keep fighting not just to make history, but to change it forever.”
And that will certainly be the case if the US women’s national team has any say in the matter.
1991 ⭐️— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) July 7, 2019
🇺🇸 H I S T O R I C 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/0Lhj5f8CsW