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Rapinoe testifies to Congress on equal pay

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<span>Photograph: Steve Luciano/AP</span>

Photograph: Steve Luciano/AP

Megan Rapinoe has taken her fight for equal pay to Congress as she testified on Wednesday in front of a committee examining “the economic harm caused by longstanding gender inequalities, particularly for women of color”.

The Olympic and World Cup champion testified at a hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. In her opening statement, the soccer star told the committee that: “I am here today because I know firsthand that this is true. We are told in this country that if you just work hard and continue to achieve – you will be rewarded, fairly. It’s the promise of the American dream. But that promise has not been for everyone.

Related: Revealed: how the pay gap at US Soccer goes all the way up the ladder

“The United States women’s national team has won four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals on behalf of our country. We have filled stadiums, broken viewing records, and sold out jerseys, all popular metrics by which we are judged.

“Yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than men – for each trophy, of which there are many, each win, each tie, each time we play. Less.”

Rapinoe said she did not understand why pay inequality was still a problem in US Soccer, despite the USWNT’s success. “I feel like honestly we’ve done everything,” she said. “You want stadiums filled? We filled them. You want role models for your kids, for your boys, and your girls, and your little trans kids? We have that. You want us to be respectful? You want us to perform on the world stage?…”

In December, the USWNT reached an agreement with the US Soccer Federation over equal work conditions with their male counterparts. The players were seeking the same conditions as the US men’s team in areas such as travel, hotel accommodation, the right to play on grass rather than artificial turf, and staffing. However, the USWNT still do not have equal pay with the men’s team after a federal judge surprisingly threw out their case in May 2020. The team have appealed the decision and are seeking millions of dollars in backpay from US Soccer.

Last week, there was outcry at the NCAA tournament, the crown jewel of US college basketball, after photos showed the far inferior gym equipment provided to female players compared to their male counterparts. Rapinoe touched on the subject during Wednesday’s hearings.

“With the lack of proper investment we don’t know the real potential of women’s sports,” she said. “What we know is how successful women’s sports have been in the face of discrimination, in the face of a lack of investment in every level in comparison to men.”

The midfielder also said she supported the rights of trans athletes. Dozens of bills in the US seek to ban trans athletes from certain youth sports. “As a member of the LGBTQ community I firmly stand with the trans family,” said Rapinoe. “As someone who has played sports with someone who is trans I can assure you all is well. Nothing is spontaneously combusting.”

Rapinoe will visit the White House later on Wednesday for an event with Joe and Jill Biden marking Equal Pay Day.

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