As women, we know what it means to fight for equality and equity. A mainstay in the conversations of equity is the discussion around gender, and a young woman named Olivia Moultrie is taking up the issue of gender equity in court right now.
Who is Olivia Moultrie, you ask? She is a 15-year-old soccer superstar who has a $100,000+ deal from Nike. She is the youngest soccer player in history to be recruited to join the soccer team at the University of North Carolina at the age of 11, on scholarship. She is the girl whose parents homeschooled her in order to accommodate her training in the sport she is obsessed with — soccer. Today, Olivia is known as a prodigy and the girl suing the National Women’s Soccer League. Olivia’s parents, K.C. and Jessica Moultrie, made choices for their daughter and sacrifices like we all do for our kids, and now they are walking alongside her as she fights for gender equity in women’s soccer.
The battle the Moultries have taken up isn’t new to the soccer profession, and gender discrimination has been a longstanding issue in the sport. Most recently, this past April, a decision was finally made in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Women’s Soccer League in their fight for pay equity. The New York Times report states, “The women’s players sued U.S. Soccer in March 2019, contending they had been subjected to years of unequal treatment and compensation. Twenty-eight members of the team filed the initial lawsuit, which later grew to include anyone in a larger class of players who had been part of the women’s team since 2015.”
The fight that Olivia is taking up is one that many women have taken up before her. It’s time for the National Soccer League to make changes and do the right thing. It’s long overdue.
Another soccer prodigy, Alphonso Davies, is now a 20-year-old player who joined the Major League Soccer men’s team at age 15. In the men’s major league soccer there are no age requirements, and players under 18 years of age have joined. Today, he plays on two national teams in Germany and Canada. Olivia, age 15, was recruited at the age of 11 to play for the University of North Carolina, making her the youngest soccer player to be recruited in the university’s history. According to an article in Sports Illustrated, “By seven she had a personal coach. At 10 she became the youngest girl ever to train full-time with boys in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.” Today, she is fighting for her well-earned right to play in the National Women’s Soccer League at the age of 15 like her male counterpart was given the opportunity to do.
Why shouldn’t Olivia be allowed to play in the National Women’s Soccer League at the age of 15, like Alphonso did five years ago for the men’s team? What is fair for the men’s league needs to also be true for the women’s league. The message that the women’s league is sending is, unfortunately, clear: Young boys and young men are valued differently than young girls and young women.
The fight that Olivia finds herself in today isn’t any different than the one the National Women’s Soccer team fought just a few years ago — for equal pay. In an interview with The Cut, two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach (who retired in 2015 and holds the record for international goals for both female and male soccer players) sheds light on the pay disparity. She says, “[T]he Women’s National Team has not only had more success, but also has, in recent years, actually had more financial success than the Men’s National Team. Two plus two doesn’t equal four anymore — so what now? What is U.S. Soccer gonna do? Are they going to step up, and pay the women what they deserve?”
Damn right, Abby, are they going to step up? It’s been an ongoing fight, and Olivia is taking it up now in hopes of simply getting the same chances that a boy her age would get — a chance she deserves. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play professionally in the U.S. I know girls my age are competing around the world and I just want to get on the field and officially compete,” Olivia shared with The Athletic. Let a girl live out her dream; it’s time to stop holding her back.
There is no question that Olivia is a badass on so many levels. She is taking up a fight that she should never have needed to. She is speaking out for something that should have always been a given for girls and women before her: equity. Olivia, a young 15-year-old girl, is taking on the National Women’s Soccer league to prove that the fight for gender equity continues to this day. Even though in 2021, it shouldn’t have to.