NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amid confetti and chants of “equal pay,” New York honored the U.S. women’s soccer team on Wednesday with a ticker-tape parade down the “Canyon of Heroes,” celebrating its World Cup triumph and paying tribute to the players’ emergence as icons of women’s rights.
The squad’s 2-0 win over Netherlands in the final match on Sunday capped a World Cup campaign that attracted vast television audiences and unprecedented public interest.
Wednesday’s parade down Broadway in New York’s financial district also cast a light on the team’s fight for equal pay with their counterparts on the U.S. men’s national team, and by extension, the issue of equal pay for equal work for women in general.
As the parade kicked off, families pressed up again the metal police barriers, eager to catch a glimpse of players like Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, the tournament’s top scorer and an outspoken team leader, as they rode on open floats along the parade route.
“They shouldn’t have to win a title to get paid the right amount,” said Jessica Hicks, a New Jersey teacher who was watching the parade with her 14-year-old daughter Aria.
Olivia Ciampi, 15, of Rockaway, Queens, who joined the throng with her mother, agreed equal pay for the team was long overdue.
“They work so hard and they win so many titles and they really do so much and they deserve it,” she said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took it a step further, telling a press conference that if pay is based on performance, the women’s team should be better compensated than the men’s.
“They play the same game that men soccer players play. By the way, they play it better, with better results,” Cuomo said.
“If there’s any economic rationale, the men should get paid less than the women. Let’s be honest!”
In March, all 28 players on the women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, demanding their compensation equal that of their male counterparts.
“The level of interest and excitement is much higher from four years ago,” said Jessica Lappin, president of the parade’s organizers, Alliance of Downtown New York, referring to the 2015 parade for the team after its last World Cup victory.
“That’s partly because they’re women’s rights icons now.”
The parade route is up Broadway through the heart of Manhattan’s financial district, from Battery Park to City Hall, a path dubbed “the Canyon of Heroes.”
At the end of the route, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other politicians will pay tribute to the team, while some of the players are likely to address the crowd.
Past honorees have included John F. Kennedy after his nomination as Democratic presidential candidate; Neil Armstrong and other Apollo 11 astronauts after their mission to the moon; and Queen Elizabeth II.
In recent decades, the city has hosted a much smaller number of parades and most of them have honored championship sports teams, including the New York Yankees and New York Giants.
Despite the name, today’s “ticker tape” parades are missing the real stuff - the ubiquitous strips of paper that ran through stock tickers that once provided price quotes for Wall Street traders.
Instead of ticker tape, about a ton of confetti made from shredded paper, tossed from about 20 buildings, rained down on the team as they ride in open vehicles up Broadway, according to the Alliance of Downtown New York. Unlike in years past, most of the office towers along the route lack windows that can open.
Additional reporting by Catherine Koppel; Editing by Frank McGurty and Steve Orlofsky