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Lately with Layne: A year of USWNT victories off of the field

While gender equality is preached through and through, the act of putting it into practice does not have the same follow through. The easiest to spot yet most commonly ignored example of this is in sports. Most recently, a viral tweet exposed an NCAA women’s basketball game that was played in the conference room of a hotel while their male counterparts play in luxury arenas. Evidently, there is much progress to be made; however, the U.S. Women’s National Team did its fair share of progress-making this year. 

In the past year, the USWNT achieved the goal that they set out to pursue over six years ago: an end to wage discrimination. What began as five teammates fighting for equal rights morphed into a nationwide battle that connected soccer fans, women’s rights advocates and many in between supporting the cause. 

The women, who continuously won highly viewed competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics, were being paid about 40% of what their male counterparts were making when they were losing said competitions. In February, they had a seemingly-small victory. They received $24 million in back pay amongst many players as a result of the gender discrimination lawsuit previously filed. The team finally fully prevailed in May. The USWNT is now paid the same as the USMNT per game. The prize money for winning the World Cup is now shared equally amongst both teams. The team, women and activists alike, were finally done fighting for something which should have never happened in the first place. 

Since I can remember, I’ve idolized Alex Morgan, who is one of the five teammates who began this fight. I read her book, watched her television series, dressed up as her for Halloween and wore pre-wrap in my hair like her all the way through my senior year of high school. Now that I don’t play soccer anymore, it is a wonderful feeling to know that I picked a good role model as I see her fighting for gender equality and much more beyond just the field. 

Whether people began to respect their stance as activists or merely the impressive game they play, their viewership skyrocketed this year as well. In the SheBelievesCup, a tournament held each year with underlying themes of female empowerment, the USWNT’s game had a viewer count that was 78% higher than the 2019 average. This was a record-setting high for any game ever played in the tournament, which began in 2016. 

Individuals from the team were also recognized separately for their deeds. Megan Rapinoe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Joe Biden earlier this year. Not only was Rapinoe the first soccer player in history to receive the great honor, she is one of only six female athletes in history to be selected for the award. 

Besides men’s soccer fanatics, I would argue that the average person is more familiar with a player from the women’s team. The USWNT has made itself known. They stepped out of the confines of just being athletes and became successful activists in the political, economic and social spheres of our society- unlike any sports team has ever done before. 

Layne Rey is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Let Layne know by tweeting her @laynerey12.

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