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The USWNT Going for the (Equality) Gold

Posted by Paul Baron on
The USWNT Going for the (Equality) Gold

To say Rachelle and I are excited to be able to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) establish a dynasty is a bit of an understatement: We’re enormous fans – we even made a trip to watch them play in the group stage of the World Cup in Vancouver last summer, and for our 5th anniversary this summer we bought tickets to see them play Japan at Dicks Sporting Goods park here in Colorado. Watching this last game today vs Sweden today was both amazing and heartbreaking. It’s amazing that women’s sports have come so far in America and the world that the US team losing to Sweden is such the upset that it is; heartbreaking to see our ladies get eliminated so early. At least they made it to the olympics, unlike our men's team ;)

Our family has loved cheering the USWNT throughout this tournament and watching all of America salute some of our finest athletes. It’s also wonderful to see the amount of support the women receive when they’re in the Olympic spotlight, and to think about how many young girls they’re inspiring.

I’m sure players like Hope Solo, Julie Johnston, Mallory Pugh, and Crystal Dunn (and the list goes on) will continue to inspire another generation of girls to go out and try soccer – or swimming, or basketball or any of the other athletic opportunities available to them – but the U.S. Women’s Team’s reach extends far beyond the pitch. They’re a force for equality.

Beyond the Pitch

As the most decorated women’s soccer team in both Olympic Gold Medal wins and World Cup titles in history, the players’ tenacity on the field has been celebrated for years; but they recently shone a light into one of the darkest corners of the athletic world: gender inequality and gender-based discrimination. In April, members of the team filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination. Some of the biggest names in the game – Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan – are sick of being treated like second-class athletes. Despite being the most watched Soccer Match in US history, the USWNT is paid pennies on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. I don’t want to focus too much on the numbers, as there’s plenty to read elsewhere, but they face up to a 263 percent disparity in pay when compared to Men’s National Team.

That’s one heck of a glass ceiling, and I’d love to see them (cue the drum roll for an #epicdadjoke) bicycle-kick a ball right through the middle of it.

More Than Fandom

For Rachelle and I, US soccer, especially the USWNT, is more than a hobby. It’s a bit of a lifestyle. Like many girls, Rachelle saw youth soccer as an opportunity to have fun and make friends, and joined a youth program when she was a five-year-old. When she was 11, she was passionate and skilled enough to make the jump to competitive leagues. By high school, recruiters were looking at her as a scholarship prospect before she was even a high-school upperclassman.

A broken leg and a trio of concussions put the brakes on those plans, but she’s still heavily invested in the sport. Some of her former teammates play in Women’s Major League Soccer, and after growing up immersed in the culture, it is naturally a big part of our family life.

If injuries hadn’t sidelined Rachelle there’s a chance she’d be facing the same earnings gap as other female pro soccer players. Questions of gender equity in athletics have been around for decades, and it’s encouraging to see the women’s national team use their phenomenal success to bring us closer to getting answers.

A Future For Our Daughters

Beau and Belle Littles and the World Cup in Vancouver USWNTMy mother is a huge influence on my life, she would always say, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” she was taught this by her mother, who was taught this by her mother, and so on. This belief is a bedrock of my personality and has influenced my life as an entrepreneur. Rachelle and I work to embed this belief in Beau, and while we don’t have a daughter yet, we hope that if and when we do, her opportunities and the rewards for her hard work and talent aren’t defined by her gender or restricted because of slowly shifting societal norms.

I can’t imagine that any of the dads of the millions of girls growing up in America right now would want anything different, either. It’s only natural that every parent would want the best for his or her son or daughter. That’s the keystone of parenthood: the promise of potential and our duty as moms and dads to do everything in our power to help our children achieve that promise.

The women wearing red, white and blue onto the pitch aren’t just soccer players or athletes. They’re not just women. They’re someone’s daughter, and as a parent, I can only hope they get everything they’ve earned. It’s what we should all expect for our daughters, isn’t it?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue so comment below! But please remember to be courteous, or else :)

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