Remarks by Vice President Harris During a Conversation with Current and Former Members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
3:34 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Welcome, everyone, to the White House. Welcome. Welcome. As has been introduced, we are gathered together with really wonderful leaders. Obviously, you all have been champions, in terms of your skill and your dominance in terms of women’s soccer, but we are here today because you also have been leaders on an issue that affects most women and has affected most women in the workforce, and it’s the issue of pay equity.
So, thank you for joining us at the White House for this important discussion, which really is going to center on your leadership — what you all have done; what you have accomplished; the challenges that you’ve faced, both personally and professionally, in terms of getting us to this point where we have now seen extraordinary success because of your commitment to the issue and your willingness to be a voice for so many others on and off the field.
So, with that, I want to thank you all. And of course, we should mention that you have won four World Cup Games and four Olympic golds. (Applause.) So — absolutely.
So, Kelley, let’s talk — I want to start with you, because it’s about being a player rep in the Players Association Union. And we still see that there are issues throughout the workforce around women being underpaid.
But can you talk a bit about the fight that you all had and the role of the Players Association in reaching the settlement?
MS. O’HARA: For sure. You know, I think a lot of people hear our fight for equal pay and they think compensation, which is definitely what it’s about. But there are a lot of other things that we were fighting for.
There was a lot of unequal treatment. And that came in the form of playing surfaces, travel standards, promotion and investment in the game.
And Julie — we were actually talking before we got up here — how far we’ve come even from when they were playing. And I don’t know if you want to mention —
MS. FOUDY: A long time ago.
MS. O’HARA: — some things. Yeah, but — but all that is to say — and to answer your question about the Players Association, we were facing all these things. And I think that the Players Association — it’s been around for generations, but we really reinvigorated it in 2017. And I think that dedicating time to setting it up in a way that we were able to achieve certain things allowed us to realize our collective voice and, like, the power of our unity.
And I think without the Players Association, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we’ve done in the past couple years.
And although we filed as individuals, not on behalf or with the Players Association, we were able to see it through because of that.
And I’m really thankful that it did start so long ago and these generations have put in the work. But, you know, we took the steps to create it the way we needed it, and it allowed us to get it over the line.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And the Players Association, it’s a union.
MS. O’HARA: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s a players’ union. And so, that meant that you wouldn’t have to — even though you filed as individuals, in terms of the lawsuit, that, in terms of your advocacy and the fight for equal pay, you knew that you weren’t alone. You all were in it together.
MS. O’HARA: For sure. I think that feeling that unity and recognizing how powerful we were, I think, was a big reason why we were able to keep fighting, because it was not easy.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And so, can you describe what the fight was? And maybe even just talk about what it was before, right? The strengthening of the Players Association and the kind of collective advocacy — what was it like before then?
MS. FOUDY: Well, way back, Kelley and I were discussing — you know, we were fighting for bagels, you know, after training and having, you know — “Everyone put in five bucks, so you can…”
MS. CONE: In between two training sessions.
MS. FOUDY: Yeah. “…you can get, you know, bagels and cream cheese.” Or, “Hey, can we get a massage therapist?” Or, “Hey, can we stay at maybe a little bit nicer hotel?” I mean, just the basics that you start to hear about, and it festers a little bit more, and, you know, the little things become bigger things.
And so, the thing that makes me so proud is this is — this goes back to the ’90s, of us, you know, threatening to actually strike an Olympics and not play in an Olympics and in locking out because we felt like that was our only leverage we had.
And to see them — and one of the things we were so cognizant of is, “Okay, we’ve got to teach the younger kids what this fight is so that when we’re gone, they’re going to carry that baton.”
And so, when we — the “old bags,” as we call ourselves — see them take it and really take it to a whole new level — we were fighting for equitable pay; they’re fighting for equal pay, as they should be. And it just warms your heart because it’s not easy. It was incredibly courageous, and it took a ton of energy and time and focus, and they just were locked in on getting it done.
And then you have a woman who is the president of U.S. Soccer, who can help them get it over the line.
So, it was a full circle moment for a lot of us — a proud moment.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, let’s go to the — we were talking backstage about the inside-outside game — right? — the advocacy from the outside. And then, really most of the reforms and most of the advances that we’ve ever seen, in terms of equality and the fight — the ongoing fight for equality — has required the push from the outside, but it requires also allies, at the very least, on the inside — if not advocates on the inside, also.
So, can you talk a little bit about what that experience was like for you, as a former player, but then being the president and what that meant in terms of the difficulties you must have experienced from the inside, understanding the push from the outside?
MS. CONE: Yeah, you know, for me, I feel like it has been over two decades of work. It started off, as Julie said, fighting for bagels between training sessions. And now this larger group of women, through the last two decades, are literally changing the world.
And for me, I’m also a coach, so to know that these young girls are now growing up and they can realize their dreams and they’re going to be fairly compensated for that, I think that’s why this is so important. It’s not necessarily for the people sitting here today, but it’s for the future of not only the future soccer players, but women in general. And I think that’s why this is important. That’s why leadership is important.
And getting to your point is, you know — I sat beside Jules and Bri when we were doing our CBA negotiations. And I don’t think you can just sit on the outside and keep complaining unless you’re willing to get inside and help create change.
And so, that is why I do what I do. Because I think having people on the inside that understand the players and what it’s like to be out on the field representing your country and what that means to you, I think, is really important to create change.
But as you said backstage, you know, our work isn’t done yet. We still have a lot of work to do, both in our sport and in our country and worldwide.
In our sport, I know that I’m going to have willing partners in CONCACAF and FIFA to spread what we have done here to the rest of the world.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And you were just re-elected president, right?
MS. CONE: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, you were. Fantastic. (Applause.)
Do you mind sharing with us without — you don’t have to name names, but — (laughter) — what were people in the inside saying about why this hadn’t happened or where there was resistance? What — how were they justifying that in their own minds, much less for the — the best interest of the game and, to your point, what you represent, which is the United States of America?
MS. CONE: Yeah. You know, I think that — I think people in my boardroom come at from different perspectives. So not everyone thinks the same thing.
I think the challenges from the U.S. soccer standpoint was that there were two separate contracts for the men and the women, because the women wanted guaranteed pay, where the men were paid to play. And so, trying to find equal with totally different structures of contracts was forever elusive. That’s why we’re in CBA — CBA negotiations right now and trying to get to one structure so it’s very clear that everything, compensation wise, is equal.
And then the other thing is the FIFA World Cup prize money is drastically different. The men’s World Cup winner for the last World Cup got $38 million for winning it, whereas our women who won the World Cup only received $4 million from FIFA.
So, there — there are already built-in status quo differences that were systemic that we need to keep working to change.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What was the inf- — and maybe I’ll go to Briana. What was the inflection point? Like, what — what started to turn the movement and bring it to the next level?
MS. SCURRY: I think what’s important to note: When you get on the U.S. women’s national team, you have a dual mandate. The first is superb soccer. I mean, we have the expectation of winning everything. And so, if you think about it from that point of view, in our day, we were expected to win World Cups and Olympic Games. And then, in present day, these amazing women had the same expectation, and we were both able to do that. So every cycle, we’ve won either the Olympic Games or the World Cup. And so, there’s that part of it.
And the second part is to fight and raise the bar higher. And so, I think, for me, I’ve continued to talk about equal pay, even though I don’t play anymore. And Julie does it; and now Cindy is obviously back in the arena, in a different position, fighting for that as well. But I think, for me, when I read about the team — and I consider them my team still, even though I haven’t played with most of them. (Laughter.)
PARTICIPANT: We all do.
MS. SCURRY: We all. Yeah.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I consider it my team too. (Laughter.)
MS. SCURRY: My — my sisters — right, your team too. (Laughs.)
Yeah, when I saw that my team was essentially sticking their necks out there like we did with the boycott in ’95 — basically putting our Olympic dreams on the line. For me, I wanted to be an Olympian since I was eight. So, putting my name out there to potentially lose my opportunity —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
MS. SCURRY: — was very, very difficult but very, very powerful, and we knew we had to do it. And I think when I saw that they filed that lawsuit, I thought it was so brave — so incredibly brave. And it’s the — it was the next evolution of the battle to be able to get U.S. soccer to take us more seriously.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What was the risk that they took when they filed that lawsuit —
MS. SCURRY: I mean —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — knowing it hadn’t been done before? Right?
MS. SCURRY: Yeah, I mean —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What was the risk?
MS. SCURRY: So — so when you file a lawsuit, in my opinion, you have your name on the dotted line of a legal document.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
MS. SCURRY: And so there’s that pressure and that connotation going along with that. And then to still have to try and win stuff, to go out there and play hard all the time that, I mean —
PARTICIPANT Win stuff.
MS. SCURRY: To win stuff.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. Gold medals. Things like that. Right.
MS. SCURRY: To win a World Cup, to win Gold medals — that’s the expectation, even though you have this high level of time and energy, as everybody can attest to, pouring into something else. It almost, like, diverts from the goal, which should only be to win, not to do all these other things.
And so, I think having your name on a legal document — there’s all this extra effort in, you know, paying for lawyers and getting prepared and having maybe a potential trial or whatever it is. All that extra effort, I think, is the thing that’s so different with the lawsuit versus maybe other ways to do it.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think that’s such an excellent point. As a general matter, when women are fighting for pay equity in any industry or in any employment setting, to require that the way that she will actually achieve parity in pay based on the value of work; to require that that — that that would take a lawsuit, the intervention of a court, the rule of law, means that she’s got to do her job every day, whatever that job is in whatever that industry is, and deal with the lawsuit.
MS. SCURRY: Yep. Absolutely.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And all that requires, in terms of the time spent but, to your point, the vulnerability to put your name on a legal document and then put yourself in a court setting that is adversarial in nature, all because you want to get paid — equal pay for equal work.
MS. SCURRY: Right. Right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And what that requires of that woman beyond doing a good job, to your point, I think that’s such a — it’s a subtle but incredibly important point.
MS. SCURRY: Absolutely.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You were still striving for and achieving excellence in your job. And then it required superhuman excellence to endure litigation —
MS. SCURRY: Right.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — to just get paid for the value of your work.
Talk to me about the next generation and what that — what it — let’s talk about that.
We — we were talking — we were talking backstage about how — I shared — my mother had many sayings. One of them she would say to me, “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.”
And what I love about the conversation that we were having — and I’m going to bring Megan and Alex into this conversation. But I love how you all really do think about this in terms of the generational impact — those who kind of had to go with the machete and go and try and knock things down to achieve fairness, and then the next generation that has come through really appreciating that and then carrying it through and continuing with that work.
So why don’t we talk a little bit about that?
MS. PURCE: A hundred percent. When you used the analogy of the machete, I was just thinking: I think that’s so accurate. You guys had the machete, you have a sword, and now I feel like I have these like scissors — (laughter) — that I’m like, “All right, let’s –”
MS. O’HARA: They’re sharp. They’re sharp.
MS. PURCE: Yeah, let’s — they’re sharp, but like let’s try them — like, let’s get it done.
I really do think that the true power of this team doesn’t come from the fact that we’re able to accomplish change, but we’re able to embolden others to pursue change.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MS. PURCE: It’s so evident that this progress is the result of women across generations.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MS. PURCE: And I think that’s a lesson in possibility. It shows that when you pursue what is right, others will join you and it will continue on pass whatever you — you can imagine it’s going to do.
So yeah, I mean, I even think — you know, I’m not the youngest player in camp. And even when I look younger than me, I’m like, “Yeah, they’re going to be great,” on both sides of the coin — on the field and off the field.
So I do agree the future is bright. And I — I’m really grateful to have had examples like this — you know, not just seeing it on television, but then practicing with it every day, being able to call it — I’m talking to Pinoe — after camp and see what’s going on. It’s — it’s incredible the — the culture that you guys have created, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of it.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And I love that point. It is — if we see it for what we should, which is that it’s — it’s really a fight for something, not against something, and, yes, about equal pay and equity, but also possibility — right? — and encouraging people to see what is possible, even if it has never been.
Megan, coming to you. (Laughter.) Coming to you.
Talk a little bit about where you think that there are lessons for women in other industries and professions, based on the experience that you all have had. What worked? What didn’t work? What’s the — how can you advise others about where maybe there are some hard knocks but where it was worth it because you saw some success?
MS. RAPINOE: (Inaudible.) (Audio on mute.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh.
MS. RAPINOE: Oh, I’m so mad. I’m so upset right now.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s the theme of the last two years. (Laughter.)
MS. RAPINOE: I mean —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Take two. Take two.
MS. RAPINOE: That just really — okay, I deserved that. (Laughter.)
I was going to say I’m not going to pass up this opportunity — certainly, for the first time in my life and the first time ever, hopefully not the last — to just say, “Madam Vice President.” Like, that’s — that’s incredible. And although it doesn’t have to do specifically with equal pay, I think it speaks to a changing landscape that we’re all part of.
And I think the thing that I’ve — you know, it’s really settled with me — is that our freedom and our liberation and our equality is tied up in each other in the moment, but also generationally.
I mean, you’re seeing on the stage right now — you know, Madam Vice President, your mom, her famous quote about not being the last one, even though you’re the first — when we think of Billie Jean King; and Venus and Serena Williams; and WNBA players — obviously, my partner, Sue Bird, and Nneka Ogwumike. Like, all of these women are doing the same thing.
And then, even go wider. If I’m seeing myself in, you know, union workers in Alabama and they’re seeing themselves in us or our team, it’s all kind of the same thing because we’re all dealing with the same issues.
So, I think for us, the more we connect our stories, the more we literally connect with each other, the more that we can kind of draft off each other, I think the more successful that we’ll be.
And I know, for us — you know, our lawsuit — it doesn’t capture every single player and it doesn’t capture every single woman in all of America, but it is something and it’s our little part.
And I think when you start to string together the idea that all of our equality — I mean, frankly, across the entire spectrum of equality — but all of our liberation, all of our freedom, all of our worth is tied up in each other, now we have a movement. Now we have 50 percent of the country all fighting for the same thing.
And then, of course, you add, you know, allies and advocates and people who believe and feel the same thing. And that’s where I think the biggest impact can come. Because, as you said, the little knocks — I mean, everything is a knock. Like, inequality is in the air that we breathe. And so, it is difficult at times.
And Kelley spoke to it. Being able to sign your name with 27 other people and being able to, at times, take a rest when you’re exhausted knowing that, you know, other women or other players or other people in your union are having your back and doing that work, I think, is essential, because it is difficult work and it is long work and the game has to be long.
So, I think, for all of us, you know, we sort of know it on the team just intrinsically because we know that we come from a long line of fighters and, you know, women who fought for equality and fought for freedoms for us and fought to make things better each generation. I think that’s our goal, and now really trying to tie it to a larger sort of society movement is what I think will have the most impact over the shortest amount of time.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s great. And that’s right. And that’s about the coalition and — and I think the strength of coalition always is seeing the commonalities and then — and then building and growing off of that in a way that empowers everybody. I think that’s right.
Alex, did you just get off the field?
MS. MORGAN: I’m very underdressed. (Laughter.) I literally ran in and my cleats are still on. So, yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I know that, and I’m so glad that — because we were — we weren’t — we weren’t sure. And you hustled to get here, and I’m so glad.
And I’m thinking, given the circumstances in which you are here, that it might be best to ask you: What are the analogies between the fight for equal pay and the fight to win a game?
MS. MORGAN: Oh. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Like, what does it take? What does it take?
MS. MORGAN: I mean —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Give me some analogies. Like, right? The rules of winning a game.
MS. MORGAN: What does it take? I mean, it takes everything. It — honestly, I feel it’s everything. Like Pinoe said, sometimes you have some women stepping up and some have to take a backseat because they’re exhausted. So, it’s everyone fighting for each other. It’s working as a team. It’s supporting each other. It’s raising questions and knowing in your heart that you’re doing the right thing. And it’s leaning on each other.
A fight for equal pay is a lot longer than a soccer game and a lot harder. But there is — there’s definitely some similarities to be had.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And good coaches, I imagine, help. Right?
MS. MORGAN: Definitely. Coaches, lawyers, publicists —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Fair umpires. (Laughs.)
MS. MORGAN: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Referees.
MS. MORGAN: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All of that. Yeah.
MS. MORGAN: Oh, it all — yeah, it all plays into it. Referees, judges, court decisions. Yep, it all plays into it.
MS. RAPINOE: That was good off the fly.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That was good off the fly, right? (Laughter.) I knew there would be some — I mean, it’s — because also it really is about pacing yourself, for sure, and figuring out how do you define the win. Right? And the score is certainly one.
But I think that on this point and to Megan’s point, anything that is about a fight for equality, the win includes that you fought. That’s part of defining the win — that you stood up for yourself. Right? Even in — when the odds were against you. Maybe it wasn’t popular.
You know, because in these kinds of processes — we were talking about the fact that I was in Selma last week, celebrating — or commemorating the 57th anniversary of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, when those marchers — you know, they tried three times to cross that bridge and were beaten back, you know, shed blood on that bridge. But they didn’t give up. And every time they went, they were inspiring other people to know what was possible.
And that’s — you know, it’s a similar thing to have that kind of faith in yourself and your cause and to not give up. And you all have done that in a really extraordinary way — a really extraordinary way.
So, thank you all very much. It’s really — it’s wonderful to watch. And I know many of us watched it from afar, saw the images of, you know, the difference in terms of locker rooms and — and the equipment, in terms of — yeah. And it’s good to know that things are changing for the better.
So, thank you all very much. For all — all of us who are here and all of us who are watching and the folks you probably never meet who are going to benefit from the work that you all did: Thank you. Thank you, guys.
PARTICIPANTS: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Yay! (Applause.)
END 3:57 P.M. EDT