15 Mar Abby Wambach on Equality in Sports and New Gatorade Campaign
There’s an iconic Gatorade commercial from 1997 featuring soccer star Mia Hamm and basketball legend Michael Jordan. If you haven’t seen it, it’s set to “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” and showcases them trying to one-up each other while doing different sports. Though it looks like all fun and games, it also emphasizes the capability of both men and women as athletes. Now, in a new campaign for Gatorade Zero with Protein, this same concept of empowerment is highlighted in a remake of the original commercial, this time with Abby Wambach, who scored a whopping 184 career goals for the USWNT (26 more than Hamm) and has two Olympic gold medals, and world record runner Usain Bolt. (Wambach’s favorite flavor is Cool Blue, by the way.)
Both athletes are retired — Wambach hung up her cleats in 2015 — but she said it’s even more important that, this time around, Gatorade featured her, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a Black man. “Two marginalized folks, two marginalized retired folks,” she told POPSUGAR.
Reflecting on that original Gatorade commercial with Hamm and Jordan, Wambach recalled, “That literally was maybe the very first thing that I ever consumed as a kid that gave me an idea that I can be seen as an equal to the greatest athlete that might ever play the sport of basketball and maybe any male sport there is. Mia is getting compared to Michael. And the way that they did that commercial empowered me to dream even bigger dreams than I could possibly imagine.”
But it wasn’t without adversity. Wambach spoke about the sexism she faced during her career, and even still, women’s sports don’t get the coverage they deserve. Not by a long shot. She described the US women’s national soccer team as “activism in motion,” praising the players she used to stride on the field with as athletes who win, break records, and push forward not only with their successes but with their voices.
“Stepping into my clothes every day, I’m like, ‘I’m activism. I am a walking, breathing piece of activism every single day,'” Wambach continued on to say. “I am a gay woman walking around in a kind of conservative place where I live in Naples, Florida.” The women’s national team “kicking ass and winning and not apologizing for it, that’s activism, too,” she added.
“Never do women get rewarded in a way that makes them feel equal.”
Though Wambach, looking back at her career, felt as capable and as accomplished as any man in sports, she recognized that, without pay equity, there is no equality. She pointed to the moment she, Peyton Manning, and the late Kobe Bryant were presented the ESPYS Icon Award in 2016. “As soon as the lights turned off, and the three of us went to walk off stage, I realized something: that the three of us were walking into three very different retirements,” she said.
Wambach further explained, “Their biggest concern was where they were going to invest their hundreds of millions of dollars, and mine was how the heck I was going to find a job to get health insurance and pay my mortgage. True story.” So, even though she perceived herself to be on their level, “in the real world of retirement security and what one does in their retirement, it was made painfully clear how vastly different our careers were.”
Money is respect, Wambach said plainly. “Never do women get rewarded in a way that makes them feel equal. Even if they won the same amount and they’ve sweated the same amount and they’ve shed the same amount of blood, sweat, and tears, it doesn’t matter.” She stands with the USWNT as they continue to fight for pay equity — their next task is to appeal a court ruling from May 2020 that dismissed the team’s equal pay claims laid out in their lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. “We’ve got a long way to go,” Wambach stated, “but I’m proud to be a part of the change.”
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