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Despite the team's popularity and record-setting wins, "we're still paid less than our male counterparts," Megan Rapinoe said Wednesday

By Katie Campione
March 24, 2021 10:07 PM
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Megan Rapinoe
Credit: JIM WATSON/Getty Images

Megan Rapinoe, Margaret "Midge" Purce, and the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team are continuing their fight for equal pay.

Rapinoe, 35, and Purce, 25, brought the team's concerns to the President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House in honor of Equal Pay Day Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Rapinoe testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

As 25 other members of the team appeared behind her on a video screen, Rapinoe delivered a moving speech about their years-long fight for equal pay both within U.S. Soccer and across the world — including their March 2019 class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

"The United States Women's National Team has won four World Cup championships, we've won four Olympic gold medals on behalf of this great country. We've filled stadiums, we've broken viewing records, we've sold out our jerseys, all the popular metrics by which we are judged," she said, "and yet despite all of this, we're still paid less than our male counterparts."

She continued, "In fact, instead of lobbying with the women's team in our efforts for equal pay and equality in general, U.S. Soccer Federation has continually lobbied against our efforts, and the efforts of millions of people marginalized by gender in the United States. And if it can happen to us, and it can happen to me, with the brightest light shining on us at all times, it can and it does happen to every person who is marginalized by gender."

Megan Rapinoe
Credit: JIM WATSON/Getty Images

Purce, who is the executive director of the Black Women's Player Collective, said she's often told that the lack of equal pay correlates to a lack of interest in women's sports.

"My response is always this: You would never expect a flower to bloom without water," she said. "But women in sport who have been denied water, sunlight, and soil are somehow expected to blossom. Invest in women, then let's talk again when you see the return."

Three months before the team's fourth and record-setting World Cup win in 2019, 28 players from the team's pool filed a class-action suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

In the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the players — which include Alex Morgan, Becky SauerbrunnCarli Lloyd, and Rapinoe — claimed that they are not paid equally to the men's national players. They also alleged they have experienced "institutionalized gender discrimination," despite having the same job responsibilities. (A judge ruled against the players' claims of unequal pay in 2020. The soccer stars said they plan to appeal the court decision.)

RELATED VIDEO: U.S. Soccer Star Megan Rapinoe on Quest for Equal Pay: 'We're as Close as We've Ever Been'

Prior to filing this lawsuit, Rapinoe was also part of a group of players who filed a federal labor complaint against U.S. Soccer in 2016, claiming they're paid just 40 percent as much as the men's team players — despite generating tens of millions more in revenue.

The USWNT is also speaking out about their "ongoing fight for equal pay" in an upcoming documentary on HBO Max.

A press release previously obtained by PEOPLE said the documentary "grants viewers unprecedented access to" behind-the-scenes moments in the team's fight for equal pay both within their organization and beyond.

Rapinoe said in the release about LFG — an acronym for "Let's F—ing Go!" — that the fight for equal pay "is so much bigger than ourselves and the Women's National Team."

"We're doing it for the next generation of female soccer players and for women throughout the world in all industries and walks of life who are also fighting for equality," Rapinoe added.