Years from now, a generation of highly-paid female athletes will point to 23 brave, heroic women whose dominance, courage and outspokenness further paved the way for their success.
Granted, that group of U.S. women, who on Sunday capped off an scintillating 30-day run en route to winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup, was preceded by so many before them who in many ways helped to make their run possible. Billie Jean King, Mia Hamm, Venus and Serena Williams immediately come to mind.
However, the work Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and company accomplished during their run wasn’t limited to seven straight wins and a sleek, shiny trophy.
Their play, as well as their voices, shined a brighter beacon on fixing the issue of gender inequality that’s plagued sports and society for generations.
A nearly $800,000 disparity between the amount of money claimed by U.S. Women’s National Team members (roughly $200,000 per player) versus their male counterparts ($1 million per player) for an unblemished road to a World Cup win, per a CNBC report, painfully drives that point home.
Perhaps that’s why Sunday’s World Cup win for the U.S. women’s team, the program’s fourth win total and second in a row, could very well be one of the most iconic moments in American sports.
Because not only did they talked the talk, but they walked the walk. With every goal scored, with every distinct and refreshing celebration, the USWNT once again proved their worth at a time when they really shouldn’t have to.
They did so with the gravitas we have come to expect with a title-winning program, no matter the gender. Frankly, those who complain about Alex Morgan’s tea celebration or the team’s 12-0 win over Thailand should step back and take a chill pill.
If we’re okay with a male athlete shaking his butt after a score, or a team of men winning in a blowout, why aren’t we cool with women doing the same?
More importantly, their efforts and actions will no doubt further embolden and empower young girls to step beyond societal norms and reach for whatever they choose to do in life. Acceptance and tolerance were also key attributes the team drove home.
It could also further provide motivation for female athletes to strive for the best and aim for gold, gaining further ground in equalizing the divide between men and women.
That mindset is alive and well right here in Hays County. Since 2013, all three team state championships claimed by Hays County high schools were won by women’s programs. Of the 18 total teams that reached the postseason from Hays, Wimberley, Dripping Springs and Lehman high schools last season, roughly half of them were women’s sports.
While Sunday provided a victory for equal rights, the fight for full gender equality will continue.
It remains to be seen if U.S. Soccer will shatter the glass ceiling and pay the USWNT just as much as, if not more than, their male counterparts. The latter who have zero world cups and counting.
It’s also unknown just yet if their run will help women continue to break through in other sports.
Perhaps one day we’ll see a woman play with the men in the NBA, on the soccer pitch or on the diamond or football field.
We might even see a woman take on the role of a head coach in a men’s league. Perhaps one day, a woman could very well lead this nation as President.
The crazy thing is, those dreams don’t seem so far off any more.
Because if we all think like the U.S. Women’s soccer team, with open minds and open hearts, then anything is possible.