By ALI SWENSON
NEW YORK (AP) — Adoring fans lined New York City’s Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday to praise the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national soccer team as athletic leaders on the field — and as advocates for pay equity off it.
Construction workers sounded air horns above crowds chanting “USA! USA!” as the hourlong parade moved up a stretch of lower Broadway that has long hosted so-called ticker tape parades for world leaders, veterans and hometown sports stars.
Co-captain Megan Rapinoe and her teammates shared a float with Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro. Rapinoe struck her now-famous victory pose, took a swig of Champagne and handed the bottle to a fan. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher held the World Cup trophy aloft.
Garret Prather brought his newborn son “to celebrate how the American women made us proud on and off the field.”
The team sealed its second tournament win by beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday. It will get $4 million for winning the World Cup from FIFA, the international soccer governing body. The men’s French team got $38 million for winning last year.
The U.S. women’s team has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender and pay discrimination. The women will get bonuses about five times less from the USSF than the men would have earned for winning the World Cup. The case is currently in mediation.
Kate Lane, who watched the parade, called the pay gap “massive” for the soccer players and “across the board” for most women.
“Especially in male-dominated professions,” said Lane, of Limerick, Ireland. “Women put just as much commitment into their work as their male counterparts.”
She’s hopeful the younger generation is soaking up the message from the women’s team, noting a girl about 7 years old wearing an “Equal Pay” T-shirt.
Earlier Wednesday, team members joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, as he signed a law expanding gender pay equality in the state. He said women’s soccer players should be paid the same as male players.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, introduced a bill Tuesday that would bar federal funding for the men’s 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Soccer Federation provides equal pay to the women’s and men’s teams.
After the parade, de Blasio, also a Democrat, planned to honor the team with symbolic keys to the city.
The Department of Sanitation said it will have 350 workers assigned to parade cleanup with trucks, backpack blowers and brooms at their disposal.
The team had already started celebrating its record fourth Women’s World Cup title. After touching down at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday, players shared a toast and sang “We Are the Champions.”
Team members appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in Times Square on Tuesday to show off their trophy and answer questions from cheering kids.
Rapinoe, the outspoken star who won the awards for the tournament’s best player and top scorer, also appeared on CNN and MSNBC later Tuesday.
Rapinoe told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Republican President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is “harking back to an era that wasn’t great for everyone. It might’ve been great for a few people.”
Rapinoe told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Trump had yet to invite the women’s soccer team to the White House.
Trump had tweeted that he would invite the team, win or lose. Rapinoe has said she wouldn’t be going to the White House. The team has accepted an invitation to visit Congress.
Associated Press writers Melissa Murphy and David Bauder contributed to this report.