Members of the 1999 FIFA World Cup champion United States Women’s National Team were honored during halftime of the USWNT’s 6-0 win against Belgium on April 7 in front of 20,941 fans at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
USWNT legends including Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Michelle Akers were on hand to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their World Cup championship that changed the landscape of women’s soccer and sports not only in America, but globally.
As the current USWNT squad continues its final preparations ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer in France, its players are now the flag bearers for women’s equality.
Twenty-eight members of the reigning world champions filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation on March 8, International Women’s Day. The lawsuit claims years of “institutionalized gender discrimination” that affected the players’ pay, playing schedule, training frequency, medical treatment and coaching they receive, and travel.
“I’m grateful they’re courageous even in this time when they have so much on the line that they’re willing to continue the conversation,” Chastain said at the International Champions Cup launch event in New York City. “It’s critical for the next generation. It’s critical for these women to still fight because they’re role models for the next generation who are going to come along and say ‘I’m not putting up with that anymore. I’m done. It’s over. Move on.’”
Chastain, who scored the World Cup-winning penalty kick that helped the U.S. defeat China to hoist soccer’s greatest prize, said what the 1999 team did was just one small step toward the larger goal. She said despite women’s soccer currently being at an all-time high, there’s plenty of work to be done.
Not only were the ’99 USWNT legends on hand to watch Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and company cruise past Belgium in the first-ever meeting between the two nations, supporters of Time’s Up, an organization striving to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace, were in attendance. With shirts that read “Times up, pay up” actresses and activists including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, Uzo Aduba and Jessica Chastain showed their support for the USWNT’s case.
“I think initially my reaction was I’m exhausted talking about this,” Brandi Chastain said. “It’s 2019, why are we talking about there should be equality? It’s such a foregone conclusion that yes, men and women doing the same job should be paid the same amount. Full stop. Bottom line.”
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, though more and more have spoken up about it. Female players from Colombia and Argentina have gone public about poor pay and mistreatment, while Norway’s players demanded equal pay to their male counterparts, and won.
The Norwegian Football Association confirmed in December 2017 the women’s team will receive a pay raise of 2.5 million kroner, including a contribution of 550,000 kroner from their male counterparts, meaning both the men’s and women’s teams will be paid 6 million kroner as of 2018. It is believed to be the first deal of its kind.
“The men’s national team players wanted to do it,” said John Arne Riise, Norway’s most-capped men’s national team player. “… [The women’s players] deserve the same amount because they do the same work, train as hard and sacrifice like the men do.
“It’s a start, but it takes time. For us it’s working in Norway, but there’s still a long way to go.”
U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro waited a week before issuing a response to the USWNT lawsuit, saying he was “surprised” by the action and cited no players raised concerns about the April 2017 collective bargaining agreement. He said U.S. Soccer awaits a response from the USWNT about a preferred time to meet, which, with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup beginning June 7, might not be anytime soon.
Regardless of any potential distraction with the lawsuit, Chastain is confident the U.S. will be lifting the World Cup trophy on July 7 in Lyon, France.
“USA against France in the Final,” she said. “USA prevailing.”