NEW YORK (AFP) – Amid chants of “equal pay”, “USA” and streams of confetti, the World Cup-winning United States (US) women’s football team was feted by tens of thousands of adoring fans with a ticker tape victory parade in New York on Wednesday.
Wearing identical black T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘World Champions’ in gold letters, members of the US squad waved to the crowds from slow-moving open-top floats.
Player of the tournament Megan Rapinoe struck her iconic goal-scoring pose as she displayed the World Cup trophy to the cheering fans lining the parade route along Lower Manhattan’s fabled ‘Canyon of Heroes’.
Under bright sunny skies, office workers showered the players with white confetti thrown from the windows of skyscrapers lining Broadway.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the US World Cup stars on Rapinoe’s float and later hosted the US team in a ceremony at City Hall to present them with the symbolic ‘Keys to the City’.
“This group is so resilient, is so tough, has such a sense of humour, is just so awesome,” Rapinoe told the crowd at City Hall. “We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos, dreadlocks.
“We got white girls and black girls, and everything in between.” she said.
Star striker Alex Morgan also addressed the crowd.
“We have been known as America’s favourite football team,” she said.
“But from here on out, we’ll just be known as America’s team.”
Players were met with chants of “equal pay” during the parade and on one float, they displayed a poster given to them by someone in the crowd which read ‘Parades Are Cool, Equal Pay Is Cooler’.
While the team is celebrated across the country, the squad has also been held up as champions of gender equality.
The women’s team is suing the US Soccer Federation to demand equal pay with their male counterparts, and fan chants of “equal pay” also cascaded from the stands at the Stade de Lyon in France after last Sunday’s victory over the Netherlands.
The parade, which lasted about an hour, is in line with a New York tradition that dates back more than a century.
While the honour has been bestowed on everyone from astronauts to record-breakers, soldiers and world leaders, in recent decades it has more commonly been used to celebrate sports victories by teams such as baseball’s New York Yankees or the NFL’s New York Giants.
On Wednesday’s ticker tape celebration is just the first stop on a protracted victory lap that will send the team across the US in the coming months.
After the festivities in New York, the players jetted off to California to appear at the ESPYs, the US sports world’s equivalent of the Oscars, taking place in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
The team will then be back on the road next month to play in a five-game series of friendly international matches billed as a ‘Victory Tour’, starting with a clash against Ireland at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on August 3.
One stop that looks unlikely is a trip to the White House.
The outspoken Rapinoe has been critical of President Donald Trump, saying last month that she would not accept an invitation from him to visit the White House if the US won the World Cup.
Trump responded by tweeting that Rapinoe should “win first before she talks”.
Speaking to ESPN on Tuesday, Rapinoe noted she had “held up my end of the bargain on that one” before adding that the Twitter exchange with Trump had actually helped the team in France.
She also reiterated that she would not be going to the White House, saying on CNN, “I would not go and every teammate that I’ve talked to explicitly about it would not go.”
“I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked so hard to build and the things that we fight for and the way that we live our life,” Rapinoe said.
“I don’t think we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration.”
On Monday, the team returned home from France, 24 hours after defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in Sunday’s final to clinch a record-extending fourth World Cup crown.