SportsPulse: USWNT legend Abby Wambach claps back at critics of the women’s team. In an interview with Trysta Krick, she makes the case that Megan Rapinoe and the 2019 team may have the biggest impact of any U.S. team.
NEW YORK — There were little girls who dyed their hair purple in honor of forward Megan Rapinoe. There were grandfathers wearing Alex Morgan No. 13 jerseys, holding their granddaughter’s hands. There were same-sex couples waving American flags — the red and white stripes replaced by a rainbow.
They came here to support a team that is perhaps more beloved for its devotion to female empowerment and gender equality, for its call for confidence and conviction, than for its athletic accomplishments.
According to the New York City Mayor’s Office, an estimated 300,000 people crowded the streets of lower Manhattan on a warm and sunny Wednesday morning to celebrate the second consecutive World Cup title for the U.S. Women’s National Team in a ticker tape parade.
In the truest embodiment of how this team has confronted issues of inequality, Rapinoe gave an impassioned speech about overcoming divisiveness after the team received keys to the city from mayor Bill De Blasio.
“This conversation is at the next step,” Rapinoe said. “We have to collaborate. It takes everybody. This is my charge to everybody: Do what you can. Do what you have to do. Step outside yourself. Be more. Be better. Be bigger than you have ever been before. If this team is any representation of what you can be when you do that, please take this as an example. This group is incredible. We took so much on our shoulders to be here today to celebrate with you today. And we did it with a smile. So do the same for us. Please, I ask you.”
The parade started at 9:36 a.m. ET and ran up the Canyon of Heroes route that starts by the Battery on the southern tip of Manhattan, going north up Broadway, through the Financial District and ending at City Hall.
Some players hoisted the trophy from a float that featured a large globe with a white band around it that said “WORLD CHAMPIONS.” Others were on a different float with a cutout of the New York City skyline.
Chants of “USA, USA” and “EQUAL PAY, EQUAL PAY” roared through the buildings as the police-escorted procession passed.
That continued when U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro took the podium, as he was forced to pause his speech in response to chants for equal pay. Last month, the players filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, alleging “institutional gender discrimination.”
“We believe at U.S. Soccer that all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay,” Cordeiro said.
As early as 6:45 a.m., fans festooned in red, white, and blue started to trickle into subway cars. At Penn Station on the A line, two women boarded after taking a train from Philadelphia.
Kirsten Lawson wore an Ali Krieger USWNT jersey. Beck Dorey-Stein wore a yellow crown with “PINOE FOR 2020” and “QUEEN” splashed in black letters.
They had played soccer together, and Lawson was a captain on their team.
“We couldn’t not come,” Dorey-Stein told USA TODAY Sports. “This is a huge deal. It’s history in the making. It’s also a political statement as well as an athletic statement as well as a female empowerment statement.”
“It’s a whole movement,” Lawson added. “It’s girl power. We’re moving in a different direction.”
On the sidewalk on Broadway and Park Row was a family from Toledo, Ohio. They were putting the finishing touches on a sign to honor Rose Lavelle, a midfielder and native of nearby Cincinnati. She was the winner of the Bronze Ball, given to the tournament’s third-best player.
Ericka Zura was adding the letters that said, “WE DROVE 10 HOURS TO SEE YOU, ROSE” on top of a drawing of the state of Ohio.
The Zuras made the drive with friends and teammates from their daughter, Phinn’s, youth soccer club team.
“It really just teaches girls like Phinn that with a lot of hard work and dedication, you can really pull off something you believe in,” Craig Zura said. “Her club team actually plays the club team where Rose Lavelle played. It really shows that starting at this grassroots level, you can achieve these great things and not only become a great soccer player, but also become a voice of what she truly believes in.”
After the parade, all 23 USWNT team members will rejoin their National Women’s Soccer League teams. ESPN announced it would broadcast 14 games the remainder of the season.
On the day of the USWNT’s 2-0 triumph in the World Cup final over the Netherlands, Budweiser announced a multi-year sponsorship with the NWSL that includes naming rights to the playoffs, the championship and the MVP trophy.
“With all this excitement, a lot of male athletes and athletes from different sports all over the place have been showing support,” Lawson said. “With ESPN picking up those games, I feel like the ball is rolling with momentum, way more than the last World Cup, even though the last one was huge. This feels different. There’s so much more behind it.”
The next major test for the USWNT is the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, for which CONCACAF qualifying begins early next year.
“There’s so much youth on this team,” Lawson said. “I feel like we have such a good core that it’s exciting. And then there’s players like Sydney Leroux, who just had another baby and is already talking about her run to come back.”
Said Dorey-Stein, interrupting with a laugh: “I’d love to see a guy try and do that.”
WORLD CUP PARADE: See the highlights