Heard on the Hill

Forget the White House. Will the World Cup women take Pelosi up on her invite?

Speaker on U.S. women’s team: ‘Show them the money’

(Photo illustration by Chris Hale/CQ Roll Call)

Updated: July 9, 12:45 p.m.

Before the newly minted U.S. women’s World Cup champions could even empty all their celebratory champagne bottles in the locker room, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had invited the players to Capitol Hill, a move that could have implications for the gender pay gap debate. The invite also stands in contrast to the ambivalent reaction from President Donald Trump, who has clashed publicly with the team.

Following a thrilling 2-0 performance on Sunday, Pelosi tweeted she was “pleased to invite the players to the US Capitol as a team or individually to celebrate your inspiring victory.”

By defeating the Netherlands, the women became back-to-back champions and extended their world record to four titles (1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019).

But almost immediately following the victory, talk pivoted to the team’s equal pay fight with the U.S. Soccer Federation. Fans in the stadium began shouting “equal pay” to the tune of “U-S-A!” according to reports.

In recent years, the women made only about 38 percent of what players on the men’s team did, according to the team’s “institutionalized gender discrimination” lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. For instance, the women earned $1.725 million for winning the World Cup in 2015, or about one-third of what U.S. soccer gave the men for going out in the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. The two sides have tentatively agreed to enter mediation.

For lawmakers who want to make gender equity (specifically equal pay) a top issue, the U.S. women’s soccer team provides perhaps the starkest example of the challenges. Here you have back-to-back world champions being paid significantly less than their male counterparts who have failed to achieve even a fraction of their success.

Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe has expressed frustration with the women having to prove their worth despite their domination of the sport, and the world seems to be noticing.

Some in the audience rained “boos” on FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the World Cup trophy presentation. “A little public shame never hurt anybody, right?” Rapino said during the post-game press conference. “I’m down with the boos.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Women’s Caucus is urging U.S. Soccer to make changes to its pay structure.

But what else can Congress do?

Lawmakers have broad jurisdiction when it comes to Olympic and amateur sports organizations under the Ted Stevens Act of 1978.

The Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee has been active in oversight of the Olympic movement, and Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas and ranking Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are currently weighing whether to further engage in the pay equity matter, according to a spokesman for Moran.

Moran has previously met with members of the women’s national team.

Numerous lawmakers joined Pelosi in congratulating the team, including DWC Co-Chair Brenda Lawrence, who called for equal pay.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during Monday floor remarks that it would be his “honor to host America’s winning team” on a Capitol visit and that the United States should do more to support women’s sports.

Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning that Rapinoe has accepted his invitation.

“Every young girl who has had to play on weeknights instead of weekends because that’s when the boys play, who had to accept older equipment because the boys got the new stuff, who had to play on the other field or rink or court because the boys were using the main one, every girl who went through that knows this to be true,” said the New York Democrat.

Despite the women’s dominating tournament run (they never trailed once), this 2019 team may be remembered as much for its brashness, pissing off everyone from the British media to Trump. In addition to the scolding some players received for celebrating “excessively” during the opening-round 13-0 rout of Thailand, Rapinoe came under fire from Trump for insisting there’s no way she’s “going to the f---ing White House.”

Trump later tweeted that he would invite the team no matter what but that Rapinoe “should finish the job” before talking.

Well, she did.

Despite his earlier statement, Trump struck a noncommittal tone after the victory when asked about a potential invitation to the women. “We haven’t really thought about it. We’ll look at that,” Trump told reporters traveling with the president on Sunday.

Since the 1980s, the president typically invites championship teams for a visit to the White House. But several teams have refused to meet with Trump, including the 2018 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

This isn’t the first time Pelosi has invited Trump-spurned champions to Capitol Hill. In 2017, she asked the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors to visit after star player Stephen Curry said the team wouldn’t be interested in meeting the president. While the team turned down the invite, Pelosi and Rep. Barbara Lee met the team at the Capitol One Arena after a Washington Wizards game. Pelosi again invited the Warriors the following year and again they declined, but they did meet with Pelosi and hung out with Barack Obama.

According to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, the women’s team has not yet responded to the speaker’s invite.

But Rapinoe, for one, had already signaled her willingness to make the trip to D.C. After the Americans knocked out France in the quarterfinals at the end of June, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put out some public feelers.

“It may not be the White House, but we’d be happy to welcome” the team at the House of Representatives anytime, the freshman Democrat tweeted.

“Consider it done,” Rapinoe replied. 

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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