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Hope Solo is done being told the wage gap isn't real

As Donald Trump is being pressed more on issues like taxes and trade, it's not so clear where he stands on the issue of equal pay. Though at the beginning of his campaign he proclaimed women and men should be paid the same, a response he gave to a woman at a recent town hall seemed to indicate otherwise.

"You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job," he said, suggesting he believes gender pay disparities are due to women's behavior.

His argument isn't that novel. Actually, it's one that World Cup–winning goal keeper Hope Solo of the US women's national soccer team has heard before.

In an interview with Vox, Solo explained why she, along with four of her teammates, decided to file a suit against the US Soccer Federation over pay discrimination. Although the pay disparity was significant — the women's team is paid almost four times less than the men's team despite bringing in more money — the decision to sue wasn't an easy one.

"I was always the asshole," Solo confessed. "These were my own teammates. [They told me], 'Hope, just be happy we're getting paid.'"

But Solo has bigger ambitions than simply being paid the same as male players: She believed her team should be making even more. "We’ve brought in almost $20 million in revenue, while the men’s team has lost $2 million," she said. "So they didn’t bring any revenue into the federation. Not to mention we had more viewership. We broke records."

Solo says her fight for equal pay has impacted her job performance. "I want to go out and perform at the highest level and be intense and feel like a professional athlete. But oftentimes now, in my 30s, I go out onto the field and go, 'What the hell am I doing here?'"

Some people — including other teammates — argue that the love of the game should be enough. Solo said the fact that women athletes think they deserve less pay "has been instilled inside my teammates and women for such a long time."

Solo doesn't only work just as hard for less; she also needs to supplement her income with paying gigs like commercials and paid appearances that don't prioritize her skills as an athlete — something top-notch male athletes don't have to do if they don't want to.

"I have to do it to supplement my income, my playing income. And that’s what people don’t realize," she said. "Now I’m putting myself in a position where, do I want to pose on the cover of ESPN Magazine in a sports bra and spandex, just to make money? So now I’m thinking about objectifying myself to make money."

Given how personal the battle Solo and her teammates are waging against pay inequality feels, Trump's take on the issue was a pill Solo could not swallow. "To me, that is an ignorant comment. Women don’t work less hard — we work just as hard. Some people might have higher education, different status in their job, but you can’t say, as a whole, women work less hard than men. And I don’t know how to argue ignorance."

And the ignorance around the wage gap is quite formidable. Roughly 70 percent of employees polled by the job review website Glassdoor thought women and men in their workplace made the same amount of money, and men were more likely than women to believe this. That's why the Republican frontrunner's excuse seemed familiar.

"I get comments all the time just not believing the pay gap is real," Solo said. "Just, you know, that women accept lower-paying jobs. It’s our fault as a women’s national team because we accepted a lower contract."

Despite the fact that she probably won't reap the benefits of wage equality in her soccer career, Solo is committed to helping the next generation of female athletes.

"It’s my obligation to build soccer in America for the young girls that come after me," she says.

Vox interviews Hope Solo.
Johnny Harris

Solo is determined to win her legal fight, even if that journey has been rocky. "It’s still hard for many of my teammates. It’s hard because people want to be happy with the status quo. People want to live comfortable lives who are able to take care of their families. But that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about being on the right side of history. And it’s about fairness and equality."