NEW YORK — There were words of gratitude, the usual forgettable verbiage from public officialdom and a presentation of the keys to the city. Then the people gathered at the City Hall rally for the U.S. women’s soccer team on Wednesday finally got to hear from the woman most of them were waiting for: Megan Rapinoe.
Rapinoe did not disappoint. In a memorable speech, she lauded her teammates, spoke of the politics of division and equal pay and let forth a profane tribute to New York City.
“This is my charge to everyone: We have to be better, we have to love more and hate less. Listen more and talk less. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place,” Rapinoe told the crowd.
The ceremony came after the team rolled up Broadway, cheered by thousands and showered in confetti. The team, which defeated the Netherlands, 2-0, on Sunday in the final in Lyon, France, traversed the Canyon of Heroes, a stretch of Broadway from Battery Park to City Hall.
Rapinoe fed off the energy of the crowd as she celebrated her team with the most poignant words of the day.
“This group is so resilient, is so tough, has such a sense of humor,” said Rapinoe, the top scorer at the Women’s World Cup in France, where the United States won its second straight title. “There’s nothing that can faze this group.
“We got pink hair and purple hair. We got tattoos and dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls and everything in between. We got straight girls and gay girls.”
Bagpipers, motorcyclists and rows of police officers joined the floats of soccer stars in the parade. Mayor Bill de Blasio waved an American flag surrounded by members of the team, who wore “world champion” shirts and their medals.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on a separate players’ float, and he, Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath and other players were seen chanting “equal pay.” The team’s players have objected that the American men’s team is paid more, though its performances have been significantly weaker.
A poster on that float read: “Parades are cool; equal pay is cooler.”
“I’ve got 22 of the best, bestest friends right behind me,” Carli Lloyd said at the City Hall ceremony. Her speech followed a lengthy drum performance, the national anthem, the presentation of colors, introductions by Robin Roberts, and speeches by the mayor; his wife, Chirlane McCray; and Carlos Cordeiro, the president of U.S. Soccer, who was serenaded by “equal pay” chants by many in the crowd.
In an interview on CNN on Tuesday night, Rapinoe said she and her teammates wanted to celebrate their title in part by talking to leaders in Congress and elsewhere about the issues they’ve been vocal about throughout their run. She said she was not interested, however, in going to the White House, because she didn’t want President Donald Trump to piggyback on their platform.
“Your message is excluding people,” Rapinoe said when asked if she had a message for Trump. “You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.”
Rapinoe said the “equal pay” chant from the crowd at the end of the final solidified the win as a transcendent moment. She said that beyond pay, the issue was about investing equally into the men’s and women’s games.
“Until we have equal investment and care and thought and brainpower put on both sides, then we don’t know what our potential is. I mean right now I would say that we’re doing pretty good basically creating this entire business without being compensated substantially.”
The Canyon of Heroes has been used to celebrate many people and events, including the Apollo 11 astronauts and the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge. This is the second time the women’s national team has received the honor; the 2015 squad was also feted, a first for a women’s team.
It has been a nonstop party for the team since their victory. Champagne flowed in the locker room, and celebrations have continued in the streets of France, on planes and buses, and now back in the United States. Several players were seen swigging from Champagne bottles during the parade.