United States star Megan Rapinoe said Wednesday that the world is missing out on the "real potential of women's sports" due to inequalities that still exist, including pay and working conditions.
Rapinoe, who won gold for the U.S. in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, has been a powerful advocate for equal pay. Her remarks came via video testimony before the House Oversight Committee in Washington for Equal Pay Day.
"With the lack of proper investment, we don't know the real potential of women's sports," Rapinoe, the captain of the National Women's Soccer League's OL Reign, told lawmakers. "What we know is how successful women's sports have been in the face of discrimination, in the face of a lack of investment in every level in comparison to men."
Rapinoe will join other USWNT members later Wednesday to meet with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden to mark Equal Pay Day.
Rapinoe's comments come on the heels of outrage over inequalities between the NCAA's men's and women's basketball tournaments. She called the discrepancies "completely unacceptable."
On Saturday, the NCAA improved the women's weight training facilities in San Antonio after pictures and videos on social media revealed a stark disparity compared to those at the men's event in the Indianapolis area. The NCAA also faced questions about differences in the "swag bags" given to the men's and women's players, the food options available and the type of COVID-19 testing being done for both. A review has since been promised by NCAA president Mark Emmert.
Megan Rapinoe explains how US Soccer Federation could become the best organisation in the world by agreeing to equal pay.
Rapinoe called out Emmert by name, saying he "and the executives at the NCAA, you just simply have to do better."
"For an organization like the NCAA, similar to the U.S. Soccer Federation, that's a nonprofit, it's just absolutely unacceptable," Rapinoe said. "To say that you value your student-athletes and to have your women's players show up for one rack of dumbbells is just completely unacceptable."
In her prepared opening statement, Rapinoe issued lawmakers a call for equal pay.
"One cannot simply outperform inequality of any kind. I am here today because I know firsthand that this is true," she said.
"The Women's National Team has won four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals on behalf of our country. We have filled stadiums, broken viewing records, and sold out jerseys. Yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than men -- for each trophy, each win, each tie, each time we play. Less. And if that can happen to us, to me, with the brightest lights shining on us -- it can, and it does, happen to every person who is marginalized by gender. And we don't have to wait. We don't have to continue to be patient. We can change that today. Right now. We just have to want to."
The USWNT has been in a legal battle with the United States Soccer federation for several years. In May 2020, a federal judge in California ruled in favor of the USSF in the wage discrimination lawsuit, which was filed first in 2019. In December 2020, members of the USWNT agreed to settlement terms for the portion of the lawsuit against U.S. Soccer relating to claims of unequal working conditions.
"Instead of lobbying with the women's team and our efforts for equal pay and equality in general, U.S Soccer Federation has continually lobbied against our efforts and the efforts of billions of people marginalized by gender in the United States," Rapinoe said.
Rapinoe's testimony comes after legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Doris Matsui and Rosa DeLauro earlier this month that aims to "ensure the World Cup-winning USWNT are paid fair and equitable wages compared to the U.S. men's team."
On Thursday, U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone issued the following statement:
"Megan has always represented the United States Women's National Team and our country with honor and distinction. We thank and applaud Megan for being a champion for equal pay. With our new leadership at U.S. Soccer and so much to look forward to, my hope is the players will accept our standing invitation to meet and find a path forward that serves the women's team now and in the future. We, too, are committed to equal pay. In the meantime, U.S. Soccer will continue to be a global leader in investing in women's soccer to drive the growth of the women's game across the world."
USWNT spokesperson Molly Levinson echoed Rapinoe in her response: "We appreciate their offers of meetings -- we would appreciate more being paid equally."