U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Took a Giant Step to Protest Gender Inequality
Less than six months after winning the World Cup in what became the most-watched soccer match in history, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is still fighting for a level playing field in professional sports.
On Sunday, the world champions canceled a Victory Tour match against Trinidad and Tobago, citing unsafe conditions—specifically, the low-grade artificial turf at Aloha Stadium in Halawa, Hawaii, where the game was to be held. The aging field, which was reportedly littered with jagged rocks beneath the Astroturf, is the latest example of what the team points to as gender-related unfair treatment.
In an open letter explaining its decision not to play the game, the team suggested there is a double standard when it comes to female athletes, right down to the conditions of the stadiums they’re scheduled to play in.
“At the end of the day, we expect to be treated equally as our male counterparts,” the team wrote on Monday in a post for The Players Tribune, a website that offers athletes a platform to speak to their fans directly. “And we hope that, in the future, our fields and our venues will be chosen and inspected at the standard of an international match—whether it’s men or women playing on the field.”
The champion team’s decision to cancel one of the last games of its Victory Tour, which ends in New Orleans on Dec. 16, made headlines around the world. Several team members took to Twitter to suggest that the conditions on the field in Hawaii would be unacceptable in the men’s league, raising the issue of gender inequality in sports.
Julie Foudy, an ESPN broadcaster and a former midfielder for the women’s national team, tweeted on Sunday that the field hadn’t been inspected by a U.S. Soccer representative. By comparison, she said the venues for the U.S. men’s team conduct inspections months in advance. U.S. Soccer spokesperson Neil Buethe denied that, telling The Guardian there was no difference in the venue screening process for men’s and women’s teams. Buethe did not immediately return TakePart’s request for comment.
Being told @ussoccer is working w the team & coaches to get a protocol in place similar to men's. How not already in place is beyond me.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) December 6, 2015
Still, it’s not the first time the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has cried foul on unequal treatment. Last week, forward Abby Wambach announced that the gender wage gap within the profession had inspired her to dedicate the rest of her life to fighting pay inequality following her retirement from soccer this month. After winning the World Cup in a match against Japan in July, the U.S. women’s team collectively shared the prize money of $2 million—or a quarter of what the U.S. men’s team earned for losing the World Cup in 2014. Meanwhile, the winning German men’s team raked in $35 million.