Fans heckle U.S. Soccer president, demand 'equal pay' for World Cup winners

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Soccer Federation was overpowered by chants of “equal pay” and booed as he spoke at Wednesday’s victory parade for the country’s women’s team who won a record-extending fourth World Cup in France last weekend.

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The crowd’s condemnation followed on from the team’s high-profile lawsuit filed against the national soccer body in March, demanding equal compensation with their male counterparts, and by extension, the issue of equal pay for women in general.

Carlos Cordeiro, president of U.S. Soccer, acknowledged the tension in his speech at the parade.

“In recent months, you have raised your voices for equality. Today, on behalf of all of us at U.S. Soccer, I want to say, we hear you. We believe you. And we’re committed to doing right by you,” Cordeiro said.

He continued, saying “the U.S. has invested more in women’s soccer than any country in the world,” whereby the crowd started booing him and shouting ‘equal pay, equal pay’.

Adding fuel the fire, Cordeiro also mispronounced star player and co-captain Megan Rapinoe’s name during his speech, which drew criticism online.

“The president of @ussoccer, Carlos Cordeiro, just mispronounced Megan Rapinoe’s name. Pronounced it RAP-uh-no. Like ... that should tell you everything you need to know about the federation and how the #USWNT remains a second-class citizen,” said user Amanda Wilkins on Twitter.

After all 28 members of the team received keys to the city, Rapinoe acknowledged the tension and defended Cordeiro during a speech of her own.

“I’m going to stick my neck out there a little bit, I’m going to endorse Carlos. I think he’s with us. I think he’s on the right side of things. I think he’s going to make things right,” said the 34-year-old, who won the golden boot and golden ball awards at the World Cup.

“We look forward to holding those feet to the fire,” she added.

A video showing midfielder Allie Long eating a page of the team’s lawsuit surfaced online shortly following the celebrations.

Democratic U.S. Senators Diane Feinstein and Patty Murray introduced a bill hours after the ceremony requiring equal pay and compensation for all U.S. national athletes.

“America cheered as the women’s soccer team won an historic fourth World Cup, but our support shouldn’t end with ticker-tape parades,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Reporting by Matthew Lavietes; Editing by Christian Radnedge