A Vermont high school girl's soccer team got penalized Friday night for removing jersey tops to reveal "Equal Pay" shirts.
After scoring a goal, some of the players from Burlington High School took the opportunity to remove their blue uniform tops to show the white jerseys, according to the Burlington Free Press. The girls team was calling attention to the gender pay gap, which the U.S. women's national soccer team famously highlighted this summer after winning their fourth World Cup title. Women nationwide earn 79 cents for every $1 men earn, according to studies by PayScale, a compensation-data company, and Glassdoor, a job-listing site.
But high school players who remove their jerseys to display slogans during a match are automatically issued yellow cards, which cost the Seahorses the lead and, eventually, the game. Referees reportedly issued penalties to four players. Many in the crowd reportedly chanted the slogan while were wearing one of the 500 Nike #equalpay jerseys the team had already sold as part of a fundraiser.
The Burlington High School girls soccer team had partnered with local women's advocates to create the shirt. The white dry-fit jerseys have the Equal Pay slogan across the front, as well as the team's logo on one sleeve. The shirts cost $25 per person, but men are encouraged to pay 16% more, or about $4.80, to call attention to the gender pay disparity in Vermont.
Profits from the jerseys will go toward diversifying the Greater Burlington Girls Soccer League by increasing access to transportation for players from the New North End, reported the Burlington Free Press.
The initiative attracted attention from other sports teams at the Burlington High School, as well as statewide interest from officials and lawmakers like Senator Patrick Leahy who wore the shirts with his wife, Marcelle, in solidarity with the girls' team.
The Burlington Free Press said the boys soccer team at a recent game also wore the jerseys, but only lifted their uniforms to display the slogans after scoring a goal. By not taking off their uniform tops, they were exempted from any penalties.
The initiative is part of a larger discussion on the gender pay gap highlighted this summer by the U.S. women's national soccer team. According to a lawsuit the team filed against U.S. Soccer, male soccer players stand to make nearly three times as much per game as their female counterparts.
While U.S. Soccer has said the women are paid less because their games typically bring in less revenue and lower ratings, the women's team generated more total revenue than the men's team in the three years after the women's 2015 World Cup victory, according to the federation's financial reports.