NEW YORK (AP) — Adoring fans packed New York City's Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday amid a blizzard of confetti to praise the World Cup-winning U.S. women's national soccer team as athletic leaders on the field — and as advocates for pay equity off it.
Crowds chanted "USA! USA!" and workers sounded air horns from a construction site as the hourlong parade moved up a stretch of lower Broadway that has long hosted so-called ticker tape parades for world leaders, veterans and hometown sports stars.
Co-captain Megan Rapinoe and her teammates shared a float with Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro. Rapinoe struck her now-famous victory pose, took a swig of Champagne and handed the bottle to a fan. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher held the World Cup trophy aloft.
The team sealed its second tournament win by beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday. It will get $4 million for winning the World Cup from FIFA, the international soccer governing body. The men's French team got $38 million for winning last year.
The U.S. women's team has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender and pay discrimination. The federation will give the women bonuses about five times smaller than what the men would have earned for winning the World Cup. The case is currently in mediation.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced a bill Tuesday that would bar federal funding for the men's 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Soccer Federation provides equal pay to the women's and men's teams.
Kate Lane, who watched the parade, called the pay gap "massive" for the soccer players and "across the board" for most women.
"Especially in male-dominated professions," said Lane, of Limerick, Ireland. "Women put just as much commitment into their work as their male counterparts."
She's hopeful the younger generation is soaking up the message from the women's team, noting a girl about 7 years old wearing an "Equal Pay" T-shirt.
On Wednesday, New York state expanded a state law that prohibits gender pay discrimination, making it illegal to pay someone less based on characteristics including race, religion, disability or gender identity.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the changes into law in Manhattan, just before joining the team for the parade.
The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, also changes a legal standard for pay equity to make it easier for employees to prove discrimination in court.
"Every New Yorker deserves equal pay for equal work regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability, or however they choose to identify," said Democratic Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who represents portions of Westchester County and the Bronx and sponsored the bill in the state Senate.
At a City Hall rally after the parade, de Blasio, also a Democrat, honored the team with symbolic keys to the city, saying it "brought us together" and "showed us so much to make us hopeful."
After chants for "Equal pay!" from the crowd, Cordeiro said women "deserve fair and equitable pay. And together I believe we can get this done."