In the wake of the U.S. Women’s National Team filing a lawsuit demanding equal pay from the U.S. Soccer Federation during the past week, the USWNT and the soccer world received shocking news about one of its former superstars Sunday morning.
After being pulled over at 11:05 p.m. Saturday, former U.S. forward Abby Wambach, 35, was arrested for a DUI charge in Portland, Oregon. Wambach—the recently retired face of women’s soccer in the United States—failed a sobriety test on the scene after failing to stop at a red light, and proceeded to fail a second breath test at the Portland Central Precinct prior to her booking at 2:02 a.m. Sunday morning (ESPN.com News Services, 2016).
According to reports, Wambach was driving alone in her 2014 Range Rover at the time of her arrest, and was released on her own recognizance after being booked for the misdemeanor DUI in the early morning. Throughout the entire process, the 35-year-old was described as “polite and cooperative,” and did not cause any trouble for the arresting officers (Lahman, 2016).
After her release, Wambach issued the following statement on her Facebook Sunday:
“Last night I was arrested for DUII in Portland after dinner at a friend’s house.
Those that know me, know that I have always demanded excellence from myself. I have let myself and others down.
I take full responsibility for my actions. This is all on me. I promise that I will do whatever it takes to ensure that my horrible mistake is never repeated.
I am so sorry to my family, friends, fans and those that look to follow a better example.
– Abby” (Wambach, 2016).
Despite any negative attention that may surround Wambach in her lapse of judgment, the former U.S. standout seems genuinely remorseful for her actions, immediately reaching out to the public to express her deepest regret and apologies. Wambach—the leading scorer for both male and female U.S. soccer players in international competitions with 184 goals—retired in October, but is still considered by many to be a shining example of the role model for young athletes (ESPN.com News Services, 2016).
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion played for 14 years on the international stage, earning FIFA World Player of the Year honors in 2012 and six U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year awards (Hautman, 2016). She appeared in four World Cups with the USWNT and was instrumental in the success of the team throughout her career, including her role as a leader in the 2015 World Cup championship squad that defeated Japan 5-2 in Canada (ESPN.com News Services, 2016).
Despite her illustrious career, Wambach is arguably best known for her header in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals against Brazil in Germany. When the U.S. trailed 2-1 in the 122nd minute, Wambach made a run into the box and finished a cross from teammate Megan Rapinoe for the equalizer. The goal forced a shootout—which the U.S. won 5-3 to advance to the semifinals—and was named the best moment in Women’s World Cup history, as well as the best strike in U.S. Soccer history, beating out Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup (Jackson, 2015).
Retrieved from FIFATV YouTube Channel. Published on May 11, 2015 (accessed on April 3, 2016).
Even with the mistake Sunday morning, do not let the singular misstep erase the illustrious career and exemplary role that Wambach has played in U.S. sports change. In times when the USWNT and women’s sports around the country and the globe need support to receive equal support and pay, Wambach’s mistake should not erase the path to progress or be a distraction from the movement for equal pay.
With former teammates Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn filing suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the eve of the 2016 Olympics, it is time to rally—as a nation—behind the cause that Wambach and her fellow teammates once fought for. When the USWNT brings in more than $20 million of revenue than the men’s team and still only earns between half and a quarter of the pay (McKirdy, 2016), it is time to take a stand with the women’s team.
Rather than focus too heavily on mistakes of the players, let us remember that they deserve equality on the pitch and off. With Wambach immediately apologizing for her actions, let us stand behind her and her former teammates for the right cause, rather than berate one person for a single, lapse in judgment.
Abby may have made a mistake Saturday night, but the U.S. Soccer Federation needs to atone for its own transgressions, and it starts with equal pay.