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The ticker tape streamed from skyscrapers overhead as the world champion U.S. Women's National Team took over the Canyon of Heroes in New York City on Wednesday morning.
Fresh off their World Cup win in France on Sunday against the tenacious Netherlands team, the U.S. returned home to a hero's welcome. The parade started off at 9:30 a.m., with members of the Miss-Fires, a women's motorcycle club, revving their engines to lead the way from Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan to City Hall about half a mile away.
As the team and its supporters headed up Broadway, the crowd on the southern end went from ambient to a full roar as its stars passed though. Rose Lavelle, who scored the final shot in the last game against the Netherlands was on the first float of players, followed a few moments later with a float carrying several players including Megan Rapinoe, Alie Krieger, and Mayor Bill De Blasio with First Lady Chirlane McCray.
There was plenty of red, white, and blue on the sidelines, including countless jerseys for 1999 World Cup champ Mia Hamm, and current players like Rapinoe, Ashlyn Harris, Alex Morgan, and Carli Lloyd. There were also plenty of rainbow flags, "Rapinoe for President" signs, and chants for equal pay for the players on the team. Even Crystal Dunn, who stood on a float with New York governor Andrew Cuomo held a sign that read, "Parades are cool. Equal pay is cooler." (And to note, this is only the second time a women's team has had a parade in New York's Canyon of Heroes. The first? The 2015 World Cup championship team).
This team and other national squads around the globe are embroiled in challenges to their national governing bodies and FIFA for better pay and accommodations. All 28 members of the U.S. Women's National Team have launched a legal challenge against the U.S. Soccer Federation and FIFA for better facilities and equal pay with the (less internationally successful) men's soccer team.
At the rally at City Hall Park, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts introduced each player, followed by speeches by the Mayor, U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro, and Rapinoe.
The crowd chanted "equal pay!" at Cordeiro after he mentioned several highlights of the U.S.'s performance at the tournament, including Carli Lloyd's ability to score in six straight World Cup matches, and out coach Jill Ellis becoming the second coach -- and the first woman coach -- to win consecutive World Cup titles (the first was Vittorio Pozzo, who coached Italy in the 1930s).
"To our women's national team and the millions who support them, in recent months, you have raised your voices for equality," Cordeiro said, adding that the federation hears and believes "in you, and we're committed to doing right by you."
When Rapinoe spoke, the crowd in City Hall park roared. She joked that she was at "such a loss for words -- I mean I'll find them, don't worry."
She thanked the team, and the people who work to support them, from their athletic trainers to their communications team, to their chef (emphatically, in fact, for the chef). She also thanked her fellow teammates for being "so resilient, so tough," and "just so badass." Then she applauded the diversity of the team itself.
"We have pink hair, purple hair. We've got tattoos, we've got dreadlocks. Black girls, white girls, and everything in between. Straight girls, and gay girls!"