Photos: Sports Fans Flood Ticker-Tape Parade for U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
Did you watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup? I bet you did, you soccer newb. Or maybe you have been following the USWNT for years, waiting for this deluge of validating recognition, and also for your friends who occasionally show up on Big Soccer Occasions to finally catch on. Either way, today is your day: On Wednesday morning, the masses descended upon Lower Manhattan for a good old-fashioned (and I do mean old-fashioned) ticker-tape parade in celebration of the U.S. Women’s National Team, recent winners of the World Cup and True Champions.
Back in 2015, after the team’s first win, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer pressured Mayor Bill de Blasio to throw them their first ticker-tape parade, in line with the city’s “strong history of honoring sports achievements in the Canyon of Heroes.” Previously, that honor—a festive shower of paper scraps—had been awarded exclusively to male athletes, and Brewer thought it was time to extend that kindness to other genders. So here we are: With sportsfans thronging the FiDi stretch of Broadway, eagerly awaiting their queens, and with a trickle of irritated commuters who may or may not have known about the spectacle beforehand battling through the sea of celebrants flooding Broadway’s banks.
Parade kickoff was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at Battery Park, and by 9 o’clock, onlookers had already queued three to five deep on the curb. People hoisted one another onto ledge-like window embankments and clambered up scaffolding; the sidewalk was peppered with confetti, and stray strips of paper sifted down from the upper reaches of the Cunard Building. The vibe felt Fourth of July-lite, with flags—both American and Pride—waving throughout the crowd, and attendees in relatively patriotic office-wear jostling for a better view.
“I had to cancel a medical appointment just to be here,” lifelong soccer fanatic Mary Simpson told me. “I couldn’t miss it! For me, it’s a part of history.”
Simpson is originally from Ivory Coast, but rooted for the USWNT throughout the 2019 World Cup. On Wednesday, she showed up specifically for Megan Rapinoe, a USWNT captain who has inspired an outpouring of fervent love so widespread, it borders on mania. Rapinoe is a powerhouse mid-fielder who has stood up for LGBTQ rights, taken a knee during the national anthem, and unabashedly sparred with the president over what she considers his exclusionary messaging.
Rapinoe has also been a leading champion of the team’s banner issue: In March 2018, all 28 members filed a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation over the gender pay gap. The U.S. women’s team, you see, is miles more successful than the U.S. men’s team, yet their wages amount to a fraction of their male counterparts’. Big Soccer argues that, globally, men bring in more money, and thus draw their rewards from a larger prize pool. In the U.S., however, that’s not true, due in large part to the vast skill gap between our two teams.
Considering “how much passion you clearly see in the streets right now, for [the U.S. Soccer Federation] to say that the pool of money isn’t there for them to get equal pay is, I don’t think, a valid argument,” Stephen Morse, a parade watcher clad in his unofficial Women’s World Cup uniform—American flag pants and a button-down featuring a biker cruising down a freedom highway under the watchful eye of an eagle—tells me. The women’s team, he continues, is “more successful, obviously, and they have more gold than anyone now. …For them to not get equal pay, I don’t see how that can happen.”
As of Wednesday, that particular matter had not been settled (although one Democratic senator is putting on the financial pressure). With the question of money owed still up in the air, the USNWT did at least get this ticker-tape parade—by no means a substitute for gender parity, but a nice time nonetheless.
Megan Rapinoe: “Just shoutout to the teammates We’re chillin’. We’ve got tea sippin’. We’ve got celebrations. We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos and dreadlocks. We’ve got white girls and black girls, and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls. Hey!” pic.twitter.com/2b0EhQvmlm
Absent any concrete idea about what a ticker-tape parade even entails, I consulted Google during my walk from subway to celebration. A ticker-tape parade, according to the Wikipedia entry that popped up first, “is a parade event held in a built-up urban setting, allowing large amounts of shredded paper (originally actual ticker tape, but now mostly confetti) to be thrown from nearby office buildings onto the parade route, creating a celebratory effect by the snowstorm-like flurry.” Which explains why today’s party took place within the narrow confines of Wall Street, a former bastion of “ticker”-reliant firms all recording stock quotes in real time. (Here’s how they make the “ticker tape” today.)
The parade commenced almost on time, an impressive feat for a de Blasio-run operation, and by about 9:45, the brass band had picked up. A police motorcade and a sanitation truck carrying a mobile scrum plowed down the street; a brigade of bag-pipers marched up Broadway; but the floats ferrying the USNWT members themselves—one featuring the mayor, and the other featuring Governor Andrew Cuomo—didn’t roll by until about 10 a.m., charging into a downpour of pink-white-and blue paper shreds and cacophonous screams from their disciples.
For a rush-hour party convened on a weekday, the parade drew an impressive and rowdy crowd—thousands of jubilant New Yorkers, all clamoring for their victors. Directly behind me, a row of children sat on a metal barricade, relentlessly chanting “USA, USA!” Asked by her chaperone if she liked soccer all, a probably 7-year-old girl in a Future Is Female T-shirt mused that she didn’t really do sports, but for this, she could make an exception. Exact same, kid.