The U.S. women’s team not only achieved wild success on the field, but the players were shyly open, using their platform to stand up for equal rights for themselves and others.
The team’s efforts to ensure fair pay have finally borne fruit this week. The four-time World Cup winners have signed a collective agreement with American football that gives them the same salary as their male counterparts.
But the historic milestone was not reached just because women filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2019 or complained to the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. It has existed for decades.
Former goalkeeper Brian Scarry, who started in the team that won the 1999 World Cup, said that the job of a national team player is first and foremost to be an experienced player and a great teammate. But there was always another unspoken component.
“The second part is that you have to understand that there is a standard to do more than just be a footballer, you have to push the envelope further and further, raise the bar in terms of equality,” Scarry said. “It was so clear for We all then deserved much more than we received when we won the World Cups and the Olympics and brought great fame to football in this country.”
—In 1995, before the Atlanta Games became the first women’s football Olympics, a group of nine players, including Scarry, Michelle Akers, Mia Ham and Christine Lily, dropped out of training camp in a bonus dispute.
—After the team’s memorable victory at the 1999 World Cup at the Rose Bowl, 20 players withdrew from the tournament in Australia. This led to the conclusion of the first collective agreement.
Akers, who is a member of the National Football Hall of Fame, said that when the team was founded in the 80s, players received $ 10 a day and had to wear their own shoes in games. They were handed a uniform from the men’s team.
Because of the need, players have become “part of the team’s DNA” to defend themselves off the field, Akers said.
“It’s also part of the game for the U.S. national team, you represent your country, you represent your family, your teammates, and you give everything you need to be better than you can be – and that means it’s not just like a footballer, that is, as a person, and that means how you interact and work to make the world a better place, ”she said.
Over the years the battles have gone beyond simple payment.
Abby Wambach led a group of players who protested against artificial fields at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, arguing – rightly – that the Men’s World Cup will never be held on artificial grass. Players said the game is inherently different on the turf, and there is a greater risk of injury. The tournament went as planned, but the point was set for future world championships.
Megan Rapino knelt while performing the anthem before two games in 2016 in solidarity with Colin Copernicus, a former NFL defender who knelt to draw attention to racial inequality.
At a game in Texas this year, several players wore Protect Trans Kids armbands hours after Gov. Greg Abbott called for an investigation into parents for seeking gender assistance for their transgender children, equating it to abuse. with children.
One of the team’s most dramatic performances for equality took place in 2016, when five high-profile players – Rapino, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Carly Lloyd – filed a complaint with the EEOC.
Dissatisfied with the lack of response, the women filed a lawsuit for gender discrimination in 2019, just months before the team traveled to France and won the World Cup, pushing the chant “Equal pay!” from fans celebrating the victory.
The U.S. Football Federation settled a lawsuit with women earlier this year and promised to work with both men’s and women’s teams to equalize wages in the future. On Wednesday, the teams announced that deals had been made.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without all the generations of women’s national team players who were determined to fight for the best,” Sauerbrunn said. “They need to be given a lot of credit, and I hope they feel proud of what they did, because without them we wouldn’t be here.”
Amanda Cromwell, who played for the national team in 1991-98, having played in 55 matches, is proud of this legacy.
“I hope these women know the players who were before them, Michelle Akers, Mia Ham, Julie Fuji, they paved the way for this band and then we fought our battles with some contract issues and trying to get more,” he said. Cromwell. . “We’ve come a long way, I’ll say it.”
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