After the team’s gender discrimination lawsuit, their stripes have become a symbol of the fight for equal pay, with wide support from Hollywood A-listers.
Former President Barack Obama has one, and his former vice president Joe Biden has one, too. So do Oprah and Jessica Chastain. As did thousands of fans who lined up for the ticker tape parade in lower Manhattan in New York on Wednesday, July 10.
The U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team jersey continues to be one of the summer’s hottest accessories — so popular, the new four-star jerseys representing their fourth World Cup win on Sunday on the Nike site (Nike has not stated if and when they will be restocked). The company reported that sales of the tournament jerseys more than tripled, compared to the last Women’s World Cup in 2015, and that men’s jerseys nearly doubled, as more countries offered women’s shirt designs in men’s sizes.
The U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team has racked up enthusiastic Hollywood allies, who include Sophie Turner, Reese Witherspoon, Ellen Degeneres, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Jones, Mandy Moore, Snoop Dogg and Sarah Jessica Parker (who even invited the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup champs to her house via Instagram).
But the jersey has become more than just a must-have keepsake of the team’s fourth victory — it’s also a symbol of the ongoing battle for equal pay for women. All members of the team filed a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in March, seeking to be paid the same as the U.S. men’s soccer team (which has never won a World Cup). The jersey then represents the players’ quest for gender parity, perhaps one of the reasons Hollywood is so on board given the #MeToo movement and push for gender equality in the industry and beyond.
As the women’s team progressed in the tournament, so too did they rise in celebrity — particularly Rapinoe, whose antics have earned her both fans and critics, including President Donald Trump, who chastised her for not wanting to visit the White House. (As one Instagram user mused, “Who wants to visit the WH when you’re invited to SJP’s?”)
On Wednesday morning, wearing black Nike T-shirts with “World Champions” spelled out in gold, the players, led by pink-haired co-captain Megan Rapinoe, rode down floats on Broadway in New York as part of a special ticker-tape parade hosted by Mayor Bill De Blasio. The players chanted, “Equal pay! Equal pay!” and the crowds lining the street joined in — just as they did when the team won the final in France.
Rapinoe, the star of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, praised her team, telling the crowd: “We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos and dreadlocks. We’ve got white girls and black girls and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls.”
Those fans who didn’t have Nike jerseys on celebrated the team in their own way. Comedian Allana Harkin, together with the rest of the Full Frontal with Samantha Bee crew (Bee sent a video message inviting the team to her show), wore a grey jacket with the words “equal pay” on the back. A little girl in a red, white and blue tutu held a sign saying “Show them the money,” while another fan held a placard with the words “Proud fan” written on it in the colors of the pride flag.
Still, the dominant item among the sea of red, white and blue, was the women’s soccer jersey, worn on both women and men. The company made jerseys in men’s sizes, something that was not done for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, because of the high interest in this year’s event.
Rosemary St. Clair, vice president-general manager of Nike Women, attributes the popularity of the jersey—which became the number one jersey for any team (men or women) ever sold in one season on the company’s website— to the team itself.
St. Clair told The Hollywood Reporter that this year has been “a critical inflection point for women and sport; and the energy and support for female athletes this summer has been something truly special.”
She says that, although Nike has been championing female athletes for over 40 years, the company “believed that this tournament could do worldwide what ‘99 did [when the U.S. women’s team won] for young athletes across the United States; inspiring a whole new generation of players.”