USWNT, Canada call for gender equality, trans rights in SheBelieves Cup game

ORLANDO, Fla. -- United States and Canada women's players stood in solidarity for gender equality and transgender rights on Thursday ahead of their opening SheBelieves Cup match at Orlando's Exploria Stadium.

Players from each team wore purple tape on one wrist to represent gender equality and on the other wrist, white tape with "Defend Trans Joy" written on it, before the Americans' 2-0 win over Canada.

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The display for equality comes in response to the Canadian players' ongoing fight with their federation for equal treatment with the men. Canada players say they are playing the SheBelieves Cup in protest after initially trying to strike last week before the Canadian Soccer Association threatened them with legal action.

In a statement issued by Canadian players before Thursday's match, they said they "will continue to wear purple until our association has standards in place that ensure equal treatment and opportunity."

Canada's players walked onto the field for the game wearing purple shirts featuring the message "Enough is Enough" before the two teams gathered together in the center circle in a show of unity.

Following the match, Canada coach Bev Priestman said she supported her players, but the friction with her employer -- Canada Soccer -- put her in a somewhat difficult position.

"I think obviously as a coach, I'm in a difficult position, but I think the purple represents equality," Priestman said after the loss. "And you asked me, I believe in equality. I have to work with this group and they have to feel like they've been adequately prepared for a World Cup. And you know, I'm with my players, but I also obviously, you know, work for Canada soccer who have also, you know, supported me in my journey.

"So yeah, it's a difficult position, but what I would say is I absolutely believe in equality. I believe anybody should be given the same opportunities as any other person. But it was a powerful moment."

Players said earlier this week that they want increased staffing and resources equal to what the men's team had at their World Cup last year, in addition to owed back pay from 2022.

U.S. players offered their verbal support ahead of the match and said they would join their Canadian counterparts, many of whom are their professional club teammates, in protest.

On Thursday, U.S. players joined them in a public display ahead of the eighth edition of the SheBelieves Cup, a U.S.-based tournament named to highlight gender equality.

"Although we are now on the other side of this fight and can focus on our play on the field, our counterparts in Canada and elsewhere are experiencing the same pervasive misogyny and unequal treatment that we faced," the USWNT Players Association said in a statement.

"We stand with all women's footballers in calling attention to their collective fight, but also call on everyone to join and support the fight to eradicate all inequality and discrimination that exists in our sport."

U.S. women's players achieved equitable pay with the men's team in 2022 when each team signed a new, separate collective bargaining agreement. U.S. women's players and the U.S. Soccer Federation also agreed to a $24 million settlement last year to end an equal-pay lawsuit that lasted six years.

The "Defend Trans Joy" messaging that appeared on players' other wrists on Thursday was a response to recent anti-transgender legislation passed in Florida.

Last year, Florida passed a so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill that forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Transgender children in the state have also been barred from receiving hormones or undergoing surgeries to treat gender dysphoria.

Canada midfielder Quinn identifies as transgender and non-binary. Several Canadian and U.S. players have previously spoken out in support of transgender rights.

U.S. forward Alex Morgan recently said that "the team definitely needs to look at" the playing of games in states with discriminatory legislation.

"For this team, we've always been very vocal with where we stand and I think we'll continue to do that," Morgan said last week.

"But looking at these games in Florida and Texas, respectively, we're going to need to continue to step it up and have internal discussions as well with the team because we're not ones to shy away from hard conversation or taking a stand for what's right."

U.S. captain and defender Becky Sauerbrunn recently wrote an opinion column slamming Missouri leadership for considering legislation that would restrict transgender girls from taking part in girls' sports.