NEW YORK — Twenty years ago this July, Brandi Chastain’s now-iconic penalty kick gave the United States its second World Cup title and changed the trajectory of women’s sports forever.
Now, as the current U.S. women’s national team prepares for the 2019 World Cup in France amid a discrimination lawsuit the players filed earlier this month against their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, Chastain weighed in on the current dispute — which comes just three years after another public battle over compensation. And she didn’t mince words.
“Initially my feeling is that I’m exhausted and frustrated that I still have to have this conversation, to be honest with you,” Chastain told Yahoo Sports on Friday. “It’s 2019, why do I have to show that I have to work harder to earn the same? That doesn’t make sense to me.”
“I don’t have an MBA, but I know that if you invest in something, the reward is greater than if you don’t,” Chastain continued. “That’s simple economics. But on top of all of that, I feel that there’s a sense of pride, some ownership and respect that goes along with knowing what’s at stake. And that they’re continuing to fight for that is empowering, and it’s important for the next generation because the next generation is going to say we didn’t take it then and we’re not taking it now, full stop. And that’s the courage we need for our young women going forward. We’re all responsible right?”
Chastain, 50, was speaking after an event in lower Manhattan to announce the second annual Women’s International Champions Cup, which will feature top clubs from around the world in Lyon, Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, and the defending champion NC Courage. The Courage will host tournament in August in Cary, North Carolina.
Chastain was joined for an on-stage panel discussion by fellow “99ers” Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan, Briana Scurry, and Kate Sobrero Markgraf.
During the discussion, several ex-players spoke about the challenges the women’s players faced two decades ago. Markgraf half-joked that for some players, having a baby back then was effectively a career-ending injury.
Lilly told Yahoo Sports that while she’s “not privy to everything that’s in the lawsuit, the current team has “a big platform, and they’re going to continue to use that platform to do what they think is right.”
After the event, with her next interview on deck and a flight to catch, a staffer from Relevent Sports, which organizes the ICC, tried to shut down a follow-up question to Chastain. But she wasn’t finished making her point.
“I’m just gonna answer this really quickly: I coach both men’s and women’s soccer. I am a mother of two sons. Our responsibility is not about gender. It’s about humanity,” she said. “And if you treat each other with kindness and respect, the world would be a better, happier place.
“Football has a tremendous ability to to unite. You have warring countries playing football. That’s unbelievable. Just like we can do that, we can bring gender to an equal place. And then we don’t have to have this conversation anymore. We can talk about who should win the games. And wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
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