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Vermont high school girls soccer team yellow-carded for #equalpay shirts

Tips for closing the gender wage gap

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 with three minutes left in the game, some of the players from Burlington High School took the opportunity to remove their blue uniform tops to show off the white jerseys with the gender equality message. 

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.

"We were inspired by the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team and their efforts to achieve equal pay for equal play," the team said in a statement to its partner Change the Story. "They have been role models for us growing up."

But high school players who remove their tops to display slogans during a match are automatically issued yellow cards. That cost the Seahorses the lead and, eventually, the game. 

Referees issued penalties to four players for "excessive celebration." Many in the crowd chanted the slogan while were wearing one of the nearly 400 Nike #equalpay jerseys the team had already sold as part of its fundraiser. 

The Burlington High School girls soccer team originally planned on crafting their own jerseys as part of a dress-up day. But after creating the white dry-fit jerseys with the local women's advocacy initiative Change the Story, the players said they thought they could use the project as a way to get the word out on the wage gap. The jerseys have the team's logo on one sleeve and the Equal Pay slogan across the front. 

Since the game, the girls team generated even more sales of the Equal Pay shirts — more than 2,500 shirts sold at $25 each, raising more than $62,500 in revenue. Men have been encouraged to pay 16% more, or $4 extra, to call attention to the gender pay disparity in Vermont. 

Profits from the jerseys will go directly towards the Greater Burlington Girls Soccer League to increase access to youth sports by offering scholarships and equipment donations. 

Before the October 18 game, the initiative had already attracted attention from other sports teams at Burlington High School, as well as statewide interest from officials like U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy who wore the shirts with his wife, Marcelle, in solidarity with the girls' team. After the game, the team attracted praise on Twitter from soccer players like Brandi Chastain.  

The BHS 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 the U.S. women's national soccer team spotlit this summer. 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.

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