The USWNT's Silent Protest Is Helping Workers Displaced By Coronavirus
Last week, during the final match of the SheBelieves Cup, the USWNT staged a protest by simply wearing their warm-up shirts inside-out. That way, the USA crest, the symbol of US Soccer, wouldn't be visible. The four stars above the crest, which was reduced so a simple outline, were still on display, letting viewers know that they were still champions. What it also projected was the empty shell of support the team receives from US Soccer. Minutes after the game ended (the U.S. took home the trophy), a T-shirt was available for sale on BreakingT. Not only did the shirt break records, the company (which has contracts with the USWNT Players Association) decided to take the proceeds and share them with any of the contracted workers affected by the coronavirus and the canceled USWNT games.
Sports Illustrated reports that BreakingT knew that the shirts would be a viral sensation. Just two days before, the USWNT's gender-discrimination lawsuit filings surfaced, outlining why the women were paid less than their male counterparts. It was the perfect storm.
"On Wednesday night, we saw that the women walked out with their warmups inside out. And we were obviously struck immediately by the empty shield with the four stars. That’s a shirty thing. We need to get going," Dom Bonvissuto, BreakingT's director of marketing, said. In addition to wearing the shirts, the team decided to include everyone in the game-day photo, which traditionally only features the starting lineup. That way, everyone could see the shirts and the team's solidarity.
Bolstered by tweets from Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, and Allie Long, "4 Stars Only" has become the best-selling item on BreakingT, selling more than 50,000 shirts in just 24 hours. That success led to another idea from the USWNT and the players association.
"We've already had conversations about where some of the proceeds from this could go, especially with the women's national team games being canceled in April," Becca Roux, the executive director of the USWNTPA, told SI. "Is there a way for us to funnel money to those independent-contractor employees who would have otherwise received work for those two games? That was something the players brought up on Wednesday night before we knew how successful it would be after the game."
The fact that the USWNT could move more than 50,000 shirts is a major eye-opener for future sponsors. Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Deloitte, and Volkswagen stood behind the team after the lawsuit's details surface and now, there's real proof that the team can sell product. Plus, it's another way that the team is showing that they go above and beyond anything US Soccer does for them.
"The players thought there was more in the market that wasn’t being monetized," Roux added. "There was value being left on the table, while at the same time the federation was using an argument of revenue generation against them."