A day after United States Women's National Team star Megan Rapinoe slammed FIFA for its treatment of women's soccer players, she briefly got an audience with the organization's president.
Gianni Infantion was on hand for the USWNT's 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup final Sunday in Lyon, and was on the field to hand out individual and team awards after the match. That's where and when Rapinoe, who also won the Golden Boot (tournament's top scorer) and Golden Ball (tournament's top player), briefly spoke with Infantino.
"It was to have a discussion," Rapinoe told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap on Tuesday. "It was to have a conversation. ... I think we always have to be open to progress, and sometimes it takes people a little bit longer to get there. But, I think his eyes are opened up and I'll definitely continue to peel them open at all times, but I'm looking forward to having a conversation with him and seeing how we can use FIFA money a lot better."
Fans at Parc Olympique Lyonnais booed the FIFA president and chanted "equal pay, equal pay" after the match. On Friday, Infantino announced intentions to double the prize pool for the Women's World Cup. Had it applied this year, that still would have left the women's share nearly $400 million shy of the total available for the 2022 Men's World Cup in Qatar. That, coupled with the scheduling of CONCACAF's Gold Cup final and CONMEBOL's Copa America final on the same day, are major reasons why Rapinoe told reporters Saturday that "I don't think that we feel the same level of respect certainly that FIFA has for the men and just in general."
Rapinoe and her teammates have faced a similar fight stateside. Twenty-eight USWNT players are suing U.S. Soccer for "institutionalized gender discrimination," and their suit alleges that U.S. Soccer is paying the women less than their counterparts on the men's team despite bringing in more revenue, television viewers and trophies. The two sides agreed to mediation last month, and USWNT striker Alex Morgan said the chants in Lyon drove home that the public is on the players' side.
"Well, I think clearly we have the fans' support," Morgan told Schaap. "There's no denying that, but just moving forward I think we really want a collaborative approach with U.S. Soccer and I think we're very optimistic about that. They've done an incredible job of supporting us. This World Cup just shows what federations do support their teams, and who really made it the furthest. You look at England, France, our team [in] comparison to Brazil -- who has so much potential, who could easily make it into the final given their quality but don't quite have the support. So, we have to continue to push that along and I think that we're doing that."
They might be starting to gain congressional support, too. After West Virginia University women's soccer head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown highlighted the pay gap in a letter to Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Manchin introduced a bill Tuesday that would bar any federal funding for the 2026 Men's World Cup. The United States is set to co-host the event with Mexico and Canada, and Manchin's office told the Huffington Post that federal funds "can be and will likely be used in a variety of ways" for the tournament., such as infrastructure, security and "assistance for [facilities] upgrades."