On International Women's Day, on March 8, 2019, the U.S. female football players filed a historic federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation. The lawsuit is mainly based on the claim that there is an unjust wage gap discrimination between male and female football players in the USA. To be more specific in numbers, the U.S. men's national team was eliminated in the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup, and they received bonuses over than $5M overall. A year later, in 2015, when the women's national team won the World Cup, they received only $1.7M. Moreover, while in 2016, the women's national team had revenues of $16M, the Men's team finished the year with losses of $2M.
Two of the loudest athletes leading the way to others are also the two biggest stars of the national team, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. Therefore, it is not surprising that Morgan's name was listed first in the lawsuit, which accuses U.S. Soccer of paying "only lip service to gender equality."
According to Morgan, this lawsuit is part of a more extensive process in which "The U.S. women's soccer team had positioned themselves front and center in the pay parity fight, leading the conversation since 2016 when they first filed a federal complaint of wage discrimination against U.S. Soccer." In a way, both legal procedures and especially the recent suit reflect the role that women's football has in the U.S and Canada. For more than 20 years, female football is almost synonymous in North America to empowerment and female equality, and many of the football players are seen as role models for young girls.
Nowadays, Morgan is probably one of the biggest role models for young girls, but she recalled in recent interviews the influence of important figures such as Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain had over her: "I was 10 when I watched the 1999 Women's World Cup, and I'll never forget the shockwaves of that win," she says. "It was such a big game, which was obviously watched by millions of people, but it also inspired so many girls to become involved in the sport."
Thankfully, Morgan is not alone in this fight. Another extremely vocal activist is Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign and U.S. national team winger. Rapinoe is not strange at all to activism in sport, and she was the first white or female athlete to support Colin Kaepernick's protest, as she knelt as well during the national anthem. Furthermore, Rapinoe is a well-known philanthropist for the LGBTQ movement in the United States, and in 2013 she became an ambassador for Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that focuses on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports.
Therefore, in addition to the lawsuit, it is not surprising that in May 2019, both Rapinoe and Morgan stated that if the U.S. will win the World Cup they have no intention to visit the White House for the traditional visit, due to their opposition to Trump's political approach. As Rapinoe phrased it in her direct style "I am not going to fake it, hobnob with the president, who is clearly against so many of the things that I am (for) and so many of the things that I actually am."
Morgan agreed with Rapinoe and stated that according to her opinion, their role is bigger than just playing football. "We don't have to be put in this little box," Morgan told Time Magazine in an interview in April 2019. It was after she has been elected as one of the 100 most influential people in the world along with other women such as Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga. "I don't stand for a lot of things the current office stands for," Morgan says. Mainly, Morgan is opposed to Trump's immigration policy, as her husband's family is from Mexico. Indeed, if Trump invites the team to the White House after the World Cup, Morgan stated that she wouldn't go and she rejected the idea that sports and politics should be disconnected." There's the narrative that's been said hundreds of times about any athlete who's spoken out politically. 'Stick to sports.' We're much more than that."
By following the footsteps of Mia Hamm, Hope Solo and many other great players who championed for women rights and female empowerment on and off the field, Rapinoe and Morgan are a live testimony for the importance that U.S. women's national team has for women and liberals in the United States. With recent laws and restrictions legislated recently, such as the prohibition of abortions in Alabama, it is clear that every achievement of Morgan and her friends this summer has the potential to echo and support goals in a much broader arena than any stadium in France.