Equal Pay Day was a day that was originally conceived by the National Committee on Pay Equality in 1996 as a way to more concretely demonstrate the gender wage gap. New York congressperson Carolyn Maloney held a hearing in honor of Equal Pay Day today, examining how gender inequalities perpetuate economic harm. Testifying at the hearing was one Megan Rapinoe.
Here’s Rapinoe’s full remarks from her initial statement:
Equal Pay and equality in general is a deep and personal passion of mine. And what we’ve learned and what we continue to learn is that there’s no level of status and there’s no accomplishment or power that will protect you from the clutches of inequality. One cannot simply outperform inequality or be excellent enough to escape discrimination of any kind. And I’m here today because I know firsthand that this is true. We’re so often told in this country that if you just work hard and continue to achieve, you will be rewarded and rewarded fairly. It’s the promise of the American dream.
But that promise has not been for everyone. The United States Women’s National Team has won four World Cup championships, we’ve won four Olympic gold medals on behalf of this great country. We’ve filled stadiums, we’ve broken viewing records, we’ve sold out our jerseys, all the popular metrics by which we are judged. And yet despite all of this, we’re still paid less than our male counterparts. For each trophy, of which there are many, for each win, for each tie, for each time we play: less. In fact, instead of lobbying with the women’s team in our efforts for equal pay and equality in general, US Soccer Federation has continually lobbied against our efforts, and the efforts of millions of people marginalized by gender in the United States. And if it can happen to us, and it can happen to me, with the brightest light shining on us at all times, it can and it does happen to every person who is marginalized by gender. But we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to continue to be patient for decades on end. We can change that today. We can change that right now. We just have to want to. So as always, LFG.
Rapinoe later answered questions around the equal pay lawsuit against USSF and inequalities around women’s sports in general, including the recent absurd inequalities in resources provided to women and men at the NCAA basketball tournament.
“With the lack of proper investment, we don’t really know the real potential of women’s sports,” Rapinoe said. “What we know is how successful women’s sports have been in the face of discrimination, in the face of gender disparity, in the face of a lack of investment on virtually every single level in comparison to men.”
She also had time to resist anti-trans questioning from Florida congressperson Scott Franklin, repeating several times that she stood with trans athletes and did not see a benefit in gendered discrimination.
“I firmly stand with the trans family and that whole community and as someone who has played sports with someone who is trans, I can assure you all is well, nothing is spontaneously combusting,” Rapinoe said.
Afterwards, President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden hosted an event with Rapinoe and Midge Purce as part of the Equal Pay Day events, where Biden signed a proclamation marking today as Equal Pay Day 2021, or how far into the next year that white women must work to earn as much as a man averages in just one year. Hispanic women earn 55 cents for every dollar white men make, Native American women make 60 cents, Black women make 63 cents, and AAPI women make 87 cents.
Biden has vocally supported the USWNT’s negotiations towards equal pay before, as has Vice President Harris.
The @USWNT proved even before their World Cup win yesterday that they have what it takes to succeed. They generate more revenue than the men’s team and now hold the record for most FIFA Women’s World Cup wins. The world is watching — it’s time they were paid what they deserve.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 8, 2019
California congressperson Doris Matsui also introduced an equal pay bill earlier this month. The Give Our Athletes Level Salaries Act proposes blocking all federal funding for the 2026 Men’s World Cup until USSF pays the USWNT “fair and equitable wages.”
Both Purce and Rapinoe made statements at the event with their teammates watching via Zoom. Purce’s statement is in full below.
Good afternoon. It is wonderful to be here on a day as important as this. Over the past few decades, we have witnessed women progress in the workforce, displaying excellence, commitment and resilience across industries. We have seen women rise to be champions for change, pioneers of thought, all while wrestling with systems that have been unable to upgrade at the same pace as them. Brava, ladies. The strength of unequal pay rests on the notion of unequal value. It is an issue of equity. When men began sports leagues, they were supported by billions in taxpayer subsidies. They were prioritized in media and afforded time to grow. The investment was great, and the return was great.
I have watched and joined a league of women who are remarkable at their craft. And together we have asked for the same grace that was extended to men in the formative years of their leagues, to investment. I’ve spoken about equal pay in formal settings such as this and an informal exchanges. Often I’m resisted with declarations like, there just isn’t enough interest in women’s sports. My response is always this: You would never expect a flower to bloom without water. But women in sport who have been denied water, sunlight, and soil are somehow expected to blossom. Invest in women, then let’s talk again when you see the return. I want to thank the US women’s national team for being an emblem of hope, a voice of reason, and of course for change. Mr. President, Madam Vice President, and Dr. Jill Biden, thank you for your commitment and attention to advancing economic security for women. We look forward to working alongside you.
Dr. Biden and President Biden also spoke, discussing how the USWNT have been inspirations to their children and grandchildren.
In terms of PR, it was a great event for both sides. In a court of law, the USWNT is currently appealing an earlier ruling from last year when a federal judge dismissed parts of their claims, and in December settled part of the lawsuit dealing with working conditions with US Soccer. Current USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone continues to signal her willingness to sit down for further talks with the team. With the Olympics on the horizon, perhaps such talks will have to wait, although another gold medal and a (potentially) lucrative victory tour would certainly add to the WNT’s leverage.
For now, we can only wait, and possibly daydream about the Purce/Rapinoe 2036 ticket.