Out soccer star Megan Rapinoe took stands for equal pay and for transgender athletes while appearing at the White House and testifying before Congress Wednesday.
Rapinoe and a colleague from the U.S. Women’s National Team, Margaret “Midge” Purce, appeared on a stage at the White House at an event for Equal Pay Day.
“Despite all of the wins, I am still paid less than men who do the same job that I do,” Rapinoe said, as reported by The Washington Post and other national media. “For each trophy — of which there are many — for each win, each tie, and for each time that we play, it’s less.”
“I’ve helped, along with all of my teammates ... win four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals for the United States,” she noted. “And despite those wins, I’ve been devalued, I’ve been disrespected and dismissed because I am a woman.”
Rapinoe was on the USWNT that won the World Cup in 2019. The team has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for pay equal to that of the men’s team as well as equal working conditions. A federal judge dismissed the pay portion of the lawsuit last year, and the team is appealing. It has reached a settlement with the USSF regarding working conditions.
Purce, who is also the executive director of Black Women’s Player Collective, which is fighting racism and sexism in all sports, pointed out that most men’s teams have existed far longer than women’s and have received greater financial support, including “billions in taxpayer subsidies.”
“You would never expect a flower to bloom without water, but women in sport who have been denied water, sunlight, and soil are somehow expected to blossom,” she said. “Invest in women, then let’s talk again when you see the return.”
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden appeared as well, both discussing pay inequities. The president urged Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and signed a proclamation for National Equal Pay Day.
Rapinoe had testified before Congress earlier in the day, fielding questions about the pay gap between men and women (some Republicans expressed doubt about it or claimed it was due to factors other than discrimination) and about transgender women in women’s interscholastic sports. There has been a rash of legislation introduced in states around the nation to exclude trans women and girls, with conservative supporters contending they’re simply trying to protect women’s sports, even though most can cite no instances of trans athletes causing a problem.
Rapinoe, a cisgender lesbian, took an inclusive stance. “As a member of the LGBTQ community, I firmly stand with the trans family and that whole community,” she said in response to U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, a Florida Republican, according to CNN. “And as someone who has played sports with someone who is trans I can assure you all is well, nothing is spontaneously combusting.”
To further questioning by Franklin, Rapinoe replied, “The reason that we want our kids to play sports is for all of the incredible aspects and character building and community building and self-confidence building that happens in sports. And to completely cut out an entire section of people, I don’t think is appropriate.”