The US women’s soccer team staged another powerful protest against gender discrimination on Wednesday.
The team wore their uniforms inside out for the national anthem at the SheBelieves Cup in Texas to hide the US Soccer Federation (USSF) logo.
USSF filed legal papers that included sexist language in Los Angeles federal court on Monday as part of its defense against the team’s gender discrimination lawsuit. The papers tried to make the argument that “indisputable science” proved the US women’s team had less physical ability and responsibility than male players.
The women’s national team first filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in 2019, which will go to trial on May 5. The team claims they are paid less than male players at the same level and asked for more than $66 million in damages.
"I just want to say, it's all false," US captain Megan Rapinoe said in an interview after the game on Wednesday, according to CNN. "To every girl out there, to every boy out there, who watches this team, who wants to be on this team, or just wants to live their dream out, you are not lesser just because you're a girl. You are not better just because you're a boy."
Human rights advocates say the case is not just an equal pay issue, it is a human rights issue.
The legal briefs focus on US law, but FIFA has adopted a new human rights policy since the women’s team first filed in 2016 that protects against discrimination, according to Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch Minky Worden.
Unity. 4 stars only. Who's with us? pic.twitter.com/AYv2YlcSl7— USWNT Players (@USWNTPlayers) March 12, 2020
"This is also a case that has relevance far beyond US borders," Worden told Global Citizen.
Teams around the world are standing up against the gender pay gap — Australia’s women’s team secured a landmark equal pay deal in November 2019. But the Women's World Cup teams still compete for just 7.5% of the men’s teams' prize money.
The legal papers filed by USSF received widespread criticism. Major sponsors of the SheBelieves Cup including Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, Budweiser, Visa, and Deloitte all condemned the claims. Such a response from sponsors is unprecedented, Worden said.
USSF President Carlos Cordeiro apologized for the remarks in a statement on Thursday and later announced on Twitter that he had stepped down. Former US soccer star and USSF Vice President Cindy Parlow Cone will take Cordeiro's place as the first female president of the organization.
The high-profile lawsuit has led to a conversation about unequal pay, drawing attention to the gender pay gap across the globe. In the US, women earn 82% of what men earn. Worldwide, women make an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, making it difficult for women to ever catch up, achieve financial dependence, and escape poverty.
"This is not just about the United States, this is about all women athletes everywhere, who face a serious pay disparity and pay gap in relation to their male counterparts," Worden said.
"These are women who are training the same long hours, doing the same work, earning the same money for the Federation as men are," she added. "We’re really at a time where there, I think, will be a reckoning over these unequal conditions and unequal pay."