High School Girls Soccer Team Penalized for Revealing 'Equal Pay' Shirts Under Jerseys
A Vermont high school girls soccer team is standing strong in their fight for equal pay — even if it means getting yellow carded.
The Burlington High School Seahorses have been working toward making a difference by selling “Equal Pay” T-shirts at school and encouraged fans to wear them to their soccer game on Friday night.
Many obliged — and so did members of the team, who were penalized after they removed their jerseys during the match to reveal the t-shirts underneath, according to Good Morning America.
“We had planned to just lift them up to show the crowd our equal pay jerseys, [but] people got excited,” player Lydia Sheeser told the morning show.
Four members of the team removed their jerseys, and were given penalties, as anyone who takes off their jersey during a game earns an automatic yellow card, the Burlington Free Press reported.
The girls were also penalized for excessive celebration, as a massive chant broke out in the audience after they first revealed the shirts, according to GMA.
“The kids were just absolutely going crazy, chanting, ‘Equal pay, equal pay, equal pay!’ And then all of a sudden the officials came over and decided, ‘We’re gonna give you a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct,’ ” coach Jeff Hayes told the outlet.
Despite the setback, the soccer team was unfazed, with player Maggie Barlow joking to the Free Press that she actually enjoyed that part of the game — and was only upset when the team lost their lead (the game ultimately ended in a tie).
The outlet reported that the girls initially designed the shirts as part of the team’s dress-up day, but as word spread, they capitalized on the popularity and decided to sell the shirts for $25, even inviting men to pay 16 percent more to reflect the pay disparity between men and women in Vermont.
Even before their game on Friday, the shirts had taken off, with Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy even sharing a photo to Twitter of himself and his wife Marcelle proudly showing off the new additions to their closet on Wednesday.
“Marcelle and I stand with you!” he wrote on Twitter.
The Seahorses have so far sold more than 700 jerseys, according to GMA, and will be donating the proceeds to youth soccer leagues in their community.
Sheeser said the money will go to the Greater Burlington Girls Soccer League in the hopes of making it more diverse by alleviating transportation issues so that girls from more distant neighborhoods can participate, according to the Free Press.
“They did such an amazing job with getting involved in the community and that’s a win-win for all of us, not just a win on the field,” coach Hayes told GMA.
The fight for equal pay was inspired by members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, who sued their federation just months before winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Twenty-eight players from the team filed a class-action suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation over pay inequality with male players, claiming they receive less pay and poorer treatment than the less-successful men’s team.
After they won the World Cup, stars like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Carli Lloyd used their platform to keep fighting.
“We’re always going to have to push to make things better,” Lloyd recently told PEOPLE. “We have to continue to push the barriers. No fight is easy, and there are some uncomfortable moments, but I think the power of this team is huge and it’s our job to continue to pave the way and make it better.”
The case will be heard in May 2020, three months before the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.