soccer

USWNT’s 2015 World Cup parade sparked equal pay fight

The 2015 World Cup parade stands out in the memory of US women’s national team star Christen Press.

Not only did the July 2015 celebration mark the culmination of her first world championship, it also provided the catalyst for the USWNT’s fight for equal pay.

As Press and her teammates emerged from the bubble of the competition, she could not believe the impact of the team’s journey, she said on the latest episode of Glennon Doyle’s “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast. She spoke in conversation with Doyle and Doyle’s wife Abby Wambach, another member of that World Cup team.

“What happened was, we opened our eyes and our lives had changed,” Press said. “We went into the tournament with somewhat well-known people, and we came out as these beacons of hope for people. And that was a complete surprise for me.”

Calling the parade the “perfect, picturesque setting” of the “best part of sport coupled with the hope of equality” coming together as one, she saw in that moment “a reckoning.”

“I was like, ‘Wow, we’re extremely valuable in this moment, from a complete business sense,'” Press said. “A lot of people want something from us right now. We have huge value in our market. Why aren’t we being compensated that way?

“That’s what the world does: They try to hide your value from you so that you don’t know. And in this moment, there was no hiding it, because there were thousands of people throwing tiny pieces of paper at us. And that was enough to know: We deserved better.”

Five USWNT players filed a lawsuit against US Soccer for gender discrimination in March 2016. Another lawsuit was filed in 2019 by all 28 members of the team over pay discrimination. The two sides reached a settlement in February, then agreed to a historic collective bargaining agreement in May that guarantees equal pay for the women’s team.

That CBA was signed in early September in what USWNT star Megan Rapinoe called a “full circle moment.”

While Press recognized the settlement as a “massive accomplishment,” she also acknowledged the work still to be done.

“When you join the US women’s national team, you’re handed a torch,” Press said. “Something happened long before I was on the team that made that team a symbol of hope for people. And that comes with great responsibility.

“So you’re handed this torch and you carry it as high and as far as you can, and then you hand it off. And any success we had built on the work that you did. And the same will be true of the next generation.”

Wambach retired after the 2015 World Cup, her fourth with the USWNT, and she admitted to Press that she experienced “post-retirement guilt” over the fight for equal pay.

“I just remember feeling like I didn’t do enough,” she said. “I just accepted such mediocre standards for so long. And I’ve had to actually do a lot of personal work in accepting that part. Because I do think that there is a role we all play on this spectrum, this continuum of justice.”

Still, she couldn’t be more proud of the players who pushed forward. And she recognized that by taking a step back, she allowed room for a new wave of players to take up the fight.

“Us old folks, us old OGs needed to not be in the team for you to actually get this accomplished,” she said. “Sometimes the old does need to go out for the new to be able to step into a new paradigm. And you all did that so well.”

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