The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team was celebrated at the 2023 ESPYs for their contributions to women’s sports — and for fighting for equal pay.
Briana Scurry, Christen Press and more of the team’s members — both past and present — took to the ESPYs stage on Wednesday, July 12, to accept this year’s Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.
“What we’ve been able to do is truly amazing,” Scurry, a U.S. women’s goalkeeper who was part of the 1996 strike for equal pay during the Olympics, said while accepting the award on behalf of the team. “There have been 252 women who have worn the shirt of the U.S. national team since its inception. And we are accepting this award on behalf of every single one of them.”
Press, meanwhile — who played for the women’s national team when they were finally awarded equal pay in 2022 — continued the acceptance speech by sharing the team’s hopes for the future.
“This is a tremendously exciting time of our team and sports as large. As anyone who has been there for us and our journey toward equality, knows our fight is not over,” she shared. “We’ve been proud to carry [the torch of equality] forward and we are looking to create thousands of touches. Millions.”
She continued: “This is a time where we must stand in support of civil and human rights in the name of a more just and anti-racist world. To find ways to support our trans siblings, to advocate for respect and kindness in ways that we engage with each other. We are proud to accept this award on behalf of every person who won’t give up fighting for a better world.”
Named in honor of tennis player Arthur Ashe, the award recognizes outstanding athletes for “possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost,” according to ESPN.
The women’s soccer team has continuously fought for important social issues, most notably equal pay between men’s and women’s sports. In March 2016, Carli Lloyd revealed that the group only received 40 percent of their male counterparts’ earnings. “I think the timing is right, she said during an appearance on Today. “I think that we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. And we want continue to fight.”
Three years after filing an equal pay complaint, the team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination. Hot off the group’s 2019 World Cup win, the deodorant brand Secret donated $529,000 in support of the team’s fight for equal pay.
“Women just made history, but they have always deserved equal pay,” the brand wrote in a full-page New York Times ad in July 2019, asking the U.S. Soccer Federation to “be on the right side of history.”
The ad continued: “Inequality is about more than pay and players; it’s about values. Let’s take this moment of celebration to propel women’s sports forward. We urge the U.S. Soccer Federation to be a beacon of strength and end gender pay inequality once and for all, for all players.”
The lawsuit was settled in February 2022, with each player earning a total of $24 million, according to ESPN. That September, both the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams signed an equal pay agreement promising identical pay for games, tournaments and World Cup prize money.
“I have to give a lot of credit to everyone involved, the women’s national team and their PA (players’ association), the men’s national team and their PA, and everyone at U.S. Soccer. There were so many people that helped, that worked together to make this happen,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement at the time, according to PBS. “And it wouldn’t get pushed over the line without the men jumping in and being on board with equal pay.”
In addition to equal pay, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has also spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The athletes sported jackets featuring the movement’s name during a November 2020 match.
“We wear Black Lives Matter to affirm human decency. This is not political, it’s a statement on human rights,” read a statement from the team shared via the U.S. Soccer Federation’s website. “As a team, we work towards a society where the American ideals are upheld, and Black lives are no longer systemically targeted. We collectively acknowledge injustice, as that is the first step in working towards correcting it.”
Player Alex Morgan shared her own statement via Twitter at the time, stating that she and her fellow players would “work collectively toward a society where the American ideals are upheld, and Black lives are no longer systematically targeted.”