This is my little cousin/goddaughter Alena. She's dope. She plays center back/midfield for her team in Southampton, PA. Her favorite player is Alex Morgan, and she was reppin' that jersey hard yesterday as the USWNT took down Netherlands 2-0 to win the Women's World Cup.
Soccer is in my family's blood. Our grandfather played overseas in his native Germany for U20 and B Squads. Naturally, we all played growing up, but Lanes is the first one that's actually good. Like really good. Her parents invest so much time and money into what she's doing, from camps, to training sessions, to all the teams she's on. It's all she thinks about: soccer. She can tell me every player on the national team, where they went to college, where they play now, how many career goals, who they're married to. It's wild.
But that's what this team has done for a generation of girls. They've inspired them to pursue their dreams, to speak out, to not let anyone hold them down.
Alena will probably play travel, maybe even high school, maybe even college. Will she ever make the national team or play pro? Who knows, but this team is making girls believe in themselves.
What scares me is that one day, Alena will be my age, and if we keep things the same, she will be faced with the harsh reality of being severely underpaid because of gender. Is it right? Absolutely not, but it is currently a real problem.
The fact that her favorite player, Alex Morgan, makes $300,000 a year, compared to USMNT member Michael Bradley, who makes 20 TIMES THAT, is a problem.
There's a reason fans chanted "equal pay" after the match. There's a reason Megan Rapinoe has been vocal on social media and in interviews. It's because they want the respect they deserve.
And I want the same for Alena, and all her teammates, and all her friends.
We need to fix this.
With inspiration come action. Let's act now.