By David Brand
Thousands of fans packed City Hall Plaza, while others clung to fences around the perimeter, to honor members of the Women’s World Cup-winning U.S. National Soccer Team — and to serenade them with chants of “Equal pay” and “Cut the check” on Wednesday.
The tight-knit, 23-member squad carry themselves with a swagger and skill befitting New York City. Several players, including World Cup Golden Ball recipient Megan Rapinoe, danced through their introductions and saluted the fans as they received keys to the city from Mayor Bill de Blasio in recognition of their second consecutive World Cup title, and fourth overall.
“I’m so proud to have them as role models,” said Kate M., a 13-year-old fan from Connecticut. “I love playing soccer. And I love watching them and applying what they do to my game.”
Kate was accompanied by family friend Anna Monteiro, a Connecticut resident who attended three of the team’s knockout stage matches — all nail-biters against European nations — in France.
“Seventy-five years ago, the US came to Europe to save their continent. Now this time, the girls, came to conquer,” said Monteiro, who wore a US team jersey with the word “Equality” written on the back. The shirt was signed by former star goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Monteiro said some people she encountered in France, and here in the US, have criticized the players’ bravado. But that attitude represents a double standard, she said.
“Across the pond, they were calling it arrogance, but with a men’s team they wouldn’t say that,” she said.
The team inspired fans of all ages — including a few Queens lawmakers. State Sens. Jessica Ramos and Michael Gianaris joined Queens District Attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán in the front row, while Councilmember Francisco Moya stood nearby. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who leads Cabán by 16 votes in the Democratic primary for DA also tweeted her support for the team, and for pay equity.
A class action lawsuit filed by 28 players against the US Soccer Federation claims that the women earn 38 percent less than members of the US Men’s team.
Gianaris told the Eagle it was time to ensure the US Women’s National Team earns the same wages as their far less successful male counterparts.
“They have demonstrated their athletic success and now we must demonstrate our support by calling on US Soccer to pay them equally.” Gianaris said.
Pay parity was a theme throughout the City Hall celebration, as attendees drowned out US Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro’s speech with chants of “Equal pay” and “Cut the check.”
Cordeiro paused as the chants intensified and fans raised posters calling for pay parity. He said US Soccer would “do right by” the women.
De Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray each said the women deserve equal pay.
And Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a pay equity bill ahead of the event.
“There is no rationale why women should not get paid what men get paid,” Cuomo said. “These are women's soccer players, they play the same game as the men's soccer players, and they play it better — so if there is any economic rationale, the men should get paid less than the women.”
The celebration outside City Hall marked the culmination of a ticker tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes, the first parade since the Women’s National Team last won the World Cup in 2015.
Jeff Tehiri and his son Danny, 11, said they traveled to the event from New Jersey early Wednesday morning for “the once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Danny, who plays as a midfielder, said he looked up to the players who he watched throughout the tournament.
“I think they’re really great,” he said. “They are extremely inspiring role models.”
Though none of the players are from Queens, several have local connections: Rapinoe’s longtime girlfriend Sue Bird — one of the greatest basketball players of all-time — graduated from Middle Village’s Christ the King High School. Fullback Crystal Dunn is from nearby Rockville Center in Nassau County.
Other Tristate area players include Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath from New Jersey and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher from Connecticut.