The Burlington High School girls soccer team made a powerful statement Friday night, and they got their chance when the Seahorses scored a goal with less than 5 minutes to play.
Moments after Helen Worden scored a goal, the BHS players turned toward the grandstand and removed the tops of their blue uniforms to reveal their custom-made T-shirts.
The T-shirts read a very powerful statement that read: #EQUALPAY.
This was their effort to join the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national soccer team in advocating for gender equality and equal pay. However, their protest of the wage gap came at a price, because soccer rules say that anyone who removes their jersey during a game earns an automatic yellow card.
South Burlington, though, equalized two minutes later, and the Seahorses had to settle for the draw. However, Burlington hardly lost that day, as the crowd chanted “Equal pay” as the referees issued the yellow cards to four Burlington players.
The team sold more than 500 #equalpay jerseys in a fundraising campaign. Even though the plan was to make #equalpay shirts for their team’s dress-up day, athletes on other BHS teams wanted in, and word spread beyond the school.
Team member Lydia Sheeser said that they partnered with some organizations that focus on women’s economic security in Vermont and they designed these jerseys. The campaign then spread like wildfire, and the initiative blossomed from a soccer-only idea to a far-reaching movement.
Sen. Patrick Leahy and his wife, Marcelle, were among the people who bought one of the Nike shirts. Each shirt costs $25, with men being invited to pay 16% more ($4.80) as a symbol of the average disparity between what men and women earn in Vermont.
The girls’ team encouraged the boys’ team to join them and even help with the fundraising. The boys celebrated in a similar fashion, wearing the special jerseys during a recent game.
The profits of the jerseys will go toward helping diversify the Greater Burlington Girls Soccer League, hopefully easing transportation issues that keep some girls from participating in soccer.