Serena Williams—and the U.S. women's soccer team—isn't here for the pay gap. On Friday the tennis icon called the pay gap in sports "ludicrous” while sharing her support for the team and its lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
“The pay discrepancy is ludicrous,” Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, told reporters during a press briefing at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. “It’s a battle; it’s a fight,” she added. “I think at some point in every sport, you have to have those pioneers, and maybe it’s time for soccer."
Twenty-eight players on the U.S. women's soccer team announced the lawsuit on Friday, International Women's Day, alleging what it called “institutionalized gender discrimination.”
The lawsuit goes far beyond pay, which still remains a major issue across the sports industry, and calls out how often female athletes get to train compared with their male counterparts, medical treatment, and more, The New York Times reported.
“I think to be on this team is to understand these issues,” Megan Rapinoe, one of the team's midfielders, told The New York Times. “And I think we’ve always—dating back to forever—been a team that stood up for itself and fought hard for what it felt it deserved and tried to leave the game in a better place.”
Another female athlete who can relate to fighting hard against gender discrimination is tennis great Billie Jean King. On Friday she too came out to support the soccer team: “Sports are a microcosm of society. What is happening with the USWNT [United States women’s national soccer team] is happening in the workplace," she tweeted. "The time has come to give these athletes what they deserve: equality.”
Williams reiterated the importance of this fight not just for the women in sports now but for all future generations of female athletes. I’m playing because someone else stood up," she said, "and so what they are doing right now is hopefully for the future of women’s soccer.”