Soccer star Brandi Chastain: Pay gap’s endurance is ‘mind boggling’
Brandi Chastain says it’s “mind boggling” to her that more than 20 years after she scored her game-winning penalty kick at the 1999 World Cup, the country hasn’t been able to close the gender pay gap.
“I’m more exhausted than ever,” the legendary United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) soccer player sighs, when ITK mentions fellow star athlete Megan Rapinoe appearing at the White House last week to mark Equal Pay Day.
USWNT player Rapinoe met with President Biden and attended an event commemorating Equal Pay Day, which represents the day each year that women have to work until to make the same amount that men did the entire year before.
“I just find it mind-boggling that we’re having the same conversation that people doing the same job make different money,” exclaims Chastain.
“Now I don’t know if it’s that someone is just a better negotiator than someone else, possibly, but I don’t think so,” says Chastain. “The system has been separating us for two centuries, so it’s not any different than any other discrimination and I feel that there’s unnecessary fear and unnecessary division.”
Asked whether athletes should get involved in politics — major sports stars including Rapinoe, LeBron James and Naomi Osaka have used their platforms to speak out on social justice issues in recent years — Chastain responds, “I would say if you believe we live in a democracy then we should because that’s what democracy is. Everybody’s voice matters.”
Chastain, 52, is now using her voice to get the word out about Save the World, a company that produces what it calls its aqueous ozone sanitizing spray bottle. The $179 bottle disinfects in seconds using tap water, the business says. Chastain, an investor in Save the World, touts that the cleaning spray helps the environment by reducing the number of disposable bottles used.
“I really just fell in love with this bottle,” she says. “I use it everywhere: I take it on planes and trains and cars and to the soccer field because it does good work. It solves a problem that I didn’t like before, which is lots of bottles.”
“I always try to make decisions that are going to be helpful instead of harmful,” Chastain adds. “I would love to see communities, households, places of business use this product for the safety of its employees, for the safety of its patrons, to make the world less toxic and healthier.”
So would Chastain use it to clean her famed black sports bra she was wearing in her now-iconic photo of from the World Cup? After scoring the game-winning goal against China, Chastain famously ripped off her shirt in celebration.
“That is now behind some glass,” she says of the memento.
“But yeah, I could use it on the glass that it’s behind,” she says with a chuckle.
The bra is hanging up at her home in California, but it might soon be traveling to the nation’s capital. Chastain reveals that she’s in discussions with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to loan it as part of an exhibit on women’s sports.
“It is remarkable to think about the opportunity to continue to share the story, and the importance, and continue to grow the game itself,” Chastain says of possibly having her bra become a museum artifact, “but I think also women in sports has kind of been my badge of honor to be a part of a group of women who recognize that they love something and then were unapologetically invested in being the best and not worrying about what other people thought.”