Thursday Jul 11, 2019
NEW YORK: “Love more, hate less,” the purple-haired player of the tournament Megan Rapinoe said as the World Cup-winning US women's soccer team was feted by tens of thousands of adoring fans with a ticker-tape victory parade up New York's “Canyon of Heroes” on Wednesday.
As Rapinoe pointed to the team’s diversity in terms of race and sexual orientation, she said: “There has been so much contention in these past few years.”
Wearing identical black T-shirts emblazoned with the words "World Champions" in gold letters, the team waved to the crowds from slow-moving open-top floats. They celebrated their World Cup triumph as the crowd hailed the players’ emergence as icons of women’s rights amid chants of "equal pay," "USA," and streams of confetti.
The squad has been involved in a well-publicised fight for equal pay with the US men’s national team. The cause has endeared the players to those who support demands by women in general for pay equality.
“Make this world a better place,” said Rapinoe, the tournament’s top scorer, who thrilled the crowd with her now-famous post-goal pose, arms aloft and a beaming smile on her face. She also displayed the trophy to cheering fans lining the parade route along Lower Manhattan's fabled "Canyon of Heroes."
As she spoke, a few spectators waved “Trump 2020” flags and one held a sign calling Rapinoe an “America hater,” an apparent reference to her refusal to put a hand over her heart when the U.S. national anthem was played during the World Cup.
Under bright sunny skies, office workers showered the players with white confetti thrown from the windows of skyscrapers lining Broadway.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the US World Cup stars on Rapinoe's float and later hosted the US team in a ceremony at City Hall to present them with the symbolic "Keys to the City."
"This group is so resilient, is so tough, has such a sense of humour, is just so badass," Rapinoe told the crowd at City Hall. "We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos, dreadlocks.
"We got white girls and black girls, and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls," she said.
Star striker Alex Morgan also addressed the crowd.
"We have been known as America's favourite soccer team," she said.
"But from here on out, we'll just be known as America's team."
While the team is celebrated across the country, the squad has also been held up as champions of gender equality. On one float, players displayed a poster given to them by someone in the crowd, which read "Parades Are Cool, Equal Pay Is Cooler."
The women's team is suing the US Soccer Federation to demand equal pay with their male counterparts, and fan chants of "equal pay" also cascaded from the stands at the Stade de Lyon in France after Sunday's victory over the Netherlands.
In March, all 28 players on the women’s team had filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation, demanding equal compensation with their male counterparts who earn much a higher base pay.
The parade, which lasted about an hour, is in line with a New York tradition that dates back more than a century.
While the honour has been bestowed on everyone from astronauts to record-breakers, soldiers, and world leaders, in recent decades it has more commonly been used to celebrate sports victories by teams such as baseball's New York Yankees or the NFL's New York Giants.
Wednesday's ticker-tape celebration is just the first stop on a protracted victory lap that will send the team across the United States in the coming months.
After the festivities in New York, the players will jet off to California to appear at the ESPYs, the US sports world's equivalent of the Oscars, taking place in Los Angeles later on Wednesday.
The team will then be back on the road next month to play in a five-game series of friendly international matches billed as a "Victory Tour", starting with a clash against Ireland at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on August 3.
One stop that looks unlikely is a trip to the White House.
The outspoken Rapinoe has been critical of President Donald Trump, saying last month that she would not accept an invitation from him to visit the White House if the United States won the World Cup.
Trump responded by tweeting that Rapinoe should "win first before she talks".
Speaking to ESPN on Tuesday, Rapinoe noted she had "held up my end of the bargain on that one" before adding that the Twitter exchange with Trump had actually helped the team in France.
She also reiterated that she would not be going to the White House, saying on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: "I would not go and every teammate that I've talked to explicitly about it would not go."
"I don't think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we've worked so hard to build and the things that we fight for and the way that we live our life," Rapinoe said.
"I don't think we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration."
On Monday, the team returned home from France, 24 hours after defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in Sunday's final to clinch a record-extending fourth World Cup crown.