The fight for equal pay reached new heights this summer thanks to the U.S. Women’s National Team, led by Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, who are suing the U.S. Soccer Federation over unequal pay. And girls in sports have been taking notes.
This weekend a team of high school girls in Vermont took a stand for equal pay by taking off their soccer jerseys on the field to reveal custom T-shirts that read “#EQUALPAY.”
“I was really inspired after watching the U.S. Women’s National Team’s performance in the World Cup and Megan Rapinoe’s whole thing with equal pay,” said Maggie Barlow, a Burlington High School player, in a video. “It got me thinking that we should do a team dress-up day where everyone wears shirts that say #EQUALPAY and spreads the message throughout school.” The girls team connected with an organization called Change the Story VT, which works for women’s economic equality in Vermont. “This is something that’s really affecting a huge population in the world and a lot of girls at our school and will affect us later,” added Lydia Sheeser, another player on the team.
To comply with the school district’s bylaws, the players wore the #EQUALPAY jerseys underneath their regular soccer uniforms, according to Good Morning America, but after they scored a goal with just three minutes left in the game, some of the players took off their jerseys—a Brandi Chastain–worthy celebration for the age of equal pay. The fans went wild, chanting “Equal pay!” as if the Burlington girls had just won the World Cup.
But the celebration was cut short when refs issued yellow cards—i.e., penalties—to four of the players for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” The penalty was also reminiscent of the USWNT. The women dominated in the World Cup but were repeatedly dragged for their on-the-field celebrations. (Tea-gate, anyone?)
If anything, the penalty may have only helped to further their message. The girls went viral on Twitter and even earned shoutouts from Billie Jean King and Mia Hamm.
So far the team has sold hundreds of #EQUALPAY jerseys, the profits of which will help to support girls soccer in Vermont. Men are asked to pay 16% more for a jersey—the size of the pay gap between men and women in Vermont.
“It was really empowering to know that we have people behind us that will support us in this,” Sheeser said. “It shows that we can actually make change.”
Originally Appeared on Glamour