U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe led her World Cup-winning team in celebration during a ticker-tape parade in New York City on Wednesday.
Rapinoe, who has taken the lead in the team’s fight for equal pay, spoke to the crowd about their plight against the U.S. Soccer Federation over alleged gender discrimination.
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“There’s been so much contention in these last years. I’ve been a victim of that, I’ve been a perpetrator of that,” Rapinoe said. “With our fight with the federation, sorry for some of the things I said – not all of the things. But it’s time to come together.”
She continued: “This conversation is at the next step. We have to collaborate. It takes everybody. This is my charge to everyone. Do what you can. Do what you have to do. Step outside yourself. Be more. Be better. Be bigger than you ever been before. If this team is any representation of what you can be when you do that, please take it as an example.”
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Rapinoe’s speech came as fans in the crowd were chanting “equal pay” at U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro.
“In recent months, you have raised your voices for equality,” Cordeiro said. “Today, on behalf of all of us at U.S. Soccer, I want to say, we hear you. We believe in you. And we’re committed to doing right by you.”
Fans cheered the team on as they moved up a stretch of lower Broadway that has hosted the ticker-tape parades in years past.
Several fans were spotted with signs calling for equal pay and others vowed to support them as the stars get back to their National Women’s Soccer League pro clubs.
Aly Hoover, a 12-year-old New Jersey native, held a poster of Alex Morgan during the parade and told the Associated Press: “I just want to be like them.”
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Garrett Prather told the Associated Press he brought his newborn son to “celebrate how the American women made us proud on and off the field.”
The U.S. women’s national team will now head to Los Angeles for the ESPY Awards. The team has also planned a victory tour next month at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.