A high school soccer team was penalized for revealing a special message under their jerseys on Friday, joining a national conversation in the process.
When the Burlington High School girls soccer team scored their first goal that night, several players lifted up their blue jerseys to reveal additional jerseys underneath.
Those shirts, emboldened with the words "#EqualPay," were designed to draw attention to the gender pay gap in America, in which women nationwide earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. It was a decision that cost the team four yellow card penalties but earned plenty of fanfare from the crowd.
"The refs issued yellow cards to those four, at which point the crowd started to chant 'Equal pay! Equal pay!' just like in the Women's World Cup this summer," teammate Lydia Sheeser, 14, told CNN.
Lydia told CNN the move was inspired by the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, which took several steps to draw attention to pay inequality during this summer's tournament. The team's players, who went on to win the World Cup, have contested that they are consistently paid a fraction of the per-game minimums received by their male counterparts.
"It’s appalling, and it's ridiculous that that's still a thing," Maggie Barlow, another player, told WPTZ.
The jerseys, made in conjunction with Change the Story, an advocacy group that aims to strengthen women's economic security, are available for sale through the team, with proceeds going toward local youth soccer groups.
#EqualPay shirts cost $25 each, but men are encouraged to pay 16 percent more — about $30 — to represent the income disparities among men and women in America. So far, the team said it has sold around 500 shirts, including one for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife, Marcelle.
Marcelle and I (proud owners of #EqualPay jerseys) were delighted to visit w/ Anna Jenemann of the #BHS Varsity Soccer Team at the #VT Women's Economic Opportunity Conference on Sat. That's where she got the call from @GMA abt the interview. @ChangeStoryVT@BTVSchools#LeahyWEOCpic.twitter.com/pwqSzQZLYh— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) October 22, 2019
Former U.S. Women's National Team player Brandi Chastain also expressed her support for the team, sharing encouragement via Twitter on Saturday.
"Thank you @bhsgirlssoccer for standing up, celebrating and taking your jerseys off for #equalpay," Chastain said. "Proud of you!"
Shirts promoting slogans are forbidden on the field per league rules, which is why the team received its penalty. Some players disagreed with the referee's call, though.
"We were frustrated at the time because we felt like our actions were appropriate for the moment," co-captain Maggie Barlow, 17, told CNN. "In the end, the most important thing is the message we're sending."
The team didn't win its game on Friday, instead tying, but many players left the field encouraged. CNN reported that the referee who issued the penalties even asked about ordering a shirt.
"He told us he was looking forward to wearing it," team captain Helen Worden told CNN.