A group of young girls isn’t waiting to make it to the big leagues to fight for equal pay.
With just three minutes left in their game on Friday night, the Burlington High School girls soccer team revealed the #EqualPay shirts hidden under their jerseys.
The Vermont team is selling the jerseys to educate people about the gender wage gap and fundraise to support young girls who play soccer.
Meanwhile, boys in the crowd also wore their #EqualPay jerseys to cheer the girls on, and fans started chanting “equal pay!”
“We felt the whole community behind us and their support just meant the most,” 16-year-old Ruby Wool, a junior on the Burlington High School soccer team, told Global Citizen.
But before long, referees had flashed yellow cards signaling that four members of the team had received penalties for “unsportsmanlike conduct,” according to Good Morning America.
The team wasn’t thrilled about the decision — but they were pleased with the stunt’s outcome.
“The refs that made that call actually bought one of the shirts,” Tiff Bluemle, director of Change the Story VT, a women’s economic equality organization that helped the team produce the shirts, told Global Citizen. “So the feelings are good all the way around.”
The Burlington High School girls soccer team came up with the idea on their own and approached Change the Story VT to make the shirts, according to Bluemle. The high schoolers are also partnering with the local Burlington Girls Soccer League to donate the proceeds and their time to programs that support young girls in the sport.
The team’s goal is to help end the gender pay gap by 2048 and prevent the next generation from having to deal with the same issues, according to Wool.
One of Wool’s teammates had attended the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the US women’s soccer team’s public fight for equal pay, led by co-captain Megan Rapinoe, resonated with her.
“We were moved by what they did and wanted to take action,” Wool said. “Inequality around the wage gap is just kind of ridiculous and we want to stand up and fight for change.”
Rapinoe and 26 other members of the 2015 women’s team filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation alleging gender discrimination on International Women’s Day in March 2019, saying they’re paid less than male players at the same level.
“We're seeing lots of young women and men taking these issues into their own hands and saying, come on, it's 2019,” Bluemle said. “They are looking at the world and they envision something different for their future and they're asserting that. Anything that we can do, to change a story and to encourage those voices, we're going to do.”
The Burlington team has gone viral on Twitter since Friday, with support from soccer star Mia Hamm and other pro athletes. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and his wife, Marcelle, also shared photos of themselves wearing the #EqualPay shirts.
The soccer team has already sold 2,500 shirts and made $50,000 in sales, according to Wool.
To account for the fact that women earn just 82 cents for each dollar a man earns in the US, men are asked to pay 16% more to make up for the pay gap between men and women in Vermont, according to Glamour.
For anyone thinking about how they can stand up for equality too, Wool encourages them to take small steps in the pursuit of change.
“Find someone who inspires you,” Wool said. “Just put yourself out there. Make your cause known, and get people to support you.”