Rarely do representatives of New York’s often-delayed transit system keep their word. But this week, they did not lie. The “joyous crowds” MTA officials warned would flood the streets of Lower Manhattan to watch the ticker tape parade for Team USA did indeed come. The Wednesday morning event became an all-out party, open to all.
The parade was set to begin at 9:30 a.m., but crowds began forming a few hours before, turning Battery Place into a sea of red and blue jerseys. There always seemed to be an American flag in sight, whether it was emblazoned on a T-shirt, hat, or hair tie holding up a ponytail.
One Upper East Sider named Effie Johnson gave the stars and stripes a very New York fashion twist, wearing the print on her leggings, with an orange mesh top and chunky white platforms. Johnson told The Daily Beast she had bought the ensemble for a Fourth of July party she held last year, but wore them today after feeling an unexpected surge of patriotism.
“They’ve been in my closet for a long time,” Johnson said. “This is the first time I’ve really felt like wearing them. It’s like—Pride Month keeps going! Fourth of July is today! Everything is culminating.”
Johnson brought a group of friends along to the parade, but lost them in the crowd. She didn’t care, as she ended up smack-dab in front of a float that featured players Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Allie Long.
“The fact that I’m here, and I can see them and they can see me, is fucking me up,” Johnson laughed. “They’re queer, athletic, [and] doing their thing for equal pay. They’re living in the world I am living in and trying to accomplish the same goals as I am—trying to survive and succeed. The fourth wall is shattered.”
A block away, another New Yorker named Megan Gabrielle held up a small homemade sign that read, “Equal Pay Now,” on one side and “Done Being Erased” on the other.
“Megan Rapinoe said that there has never been a championship without gays,” Gabrielle said. “I want our histories and our contributions on the record and celebrated. I want us to feel pride.”
“We’re claiming patriotism as not just this thing that the right can claim as their own,” Gabrielle suggested. “I am patriotic too, in my own way, and that’s powerful.”
One young woman who only gave her first name, Laura, put it bluntly: “This team is literally the first thing that has made me feel patriotic in a long while, honestly.”
Laura brought three friends to watch the parade after falling in love with Team USA last week. “I’m a new soccer fan,” Laura admitted. “I’m on the bandwagon like everyone else.”
Her friend interrupted: “Let’s be real here—she realized how hot the entire team was.”
Before the parade officially started, broadcast news producers eagerly scouted for mothers and daughters to interview in hopes of feminist soundbites. (Maybe going forward, crews can seek the same sort of representation for future segments—even if the news isn’t related to women.) There was no shortage of worthy subjects.
One mother, Michele Eicher, came toting a placard that read, “Celebrating My 46th Birthday with the World Champions.”
Eicher, a gym teacher from Queensbury, New York, had come down with her friend, soccer coach Tina Russell.
“I took a bunch of students to watch The World Cup back in ’99 and 2003 when it was held in the US,” Eicher said. “I know I dreamed as a kid that there would be a WNBA, and now there is a Women’s World Cup. It’s awesome to watch.”
Russell traveled to the city from Ticonderoga, New York, in a five-hour trip that spanned a train and Uber. But the women, who had brought their teenage daughters, could not linger in Manhattan for long. Eicher had to get her daughter Alison back for soccer practice at 6:30 p.m.
Trevor Jacha grew up playing soccer. Now a father to a toddler named Amelia, he had gone to Paris last month to watch the women’s team beat Chile. Jacha did not want to miss their triumphant return.
“I want my daughter to see some amazing women that I hope she looks up to as positive role models in her life,” Jacha said, while standing feet away from the team’s starting lineup.
The women made time for autographs and photos before the route officially started. Their float was strangely parked directly across from a stark boxcar placed outside of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. That tidbit went unnoticed—or at least unmentioned—by the fawning crowds.
One of the many things Team USA excels at is choosing eyewear. For the parade, Rapinoe matched her lavender hair with crimson circle shades, Alex Morgan wore oversize Yoko Ono glasses, and Allie Long’s cat-eyes were attached to a delicate gold chain.
The players were more than happy to thrust up their trophy for all to see. At one point, Rapinoe teased the crowd, “You can touch it for $5.”
When New York Mayor and 2020 Democratic hopeful Bill de Blasio stopped to chat with Rapinoe, the two seemed to enjoy a genuine conversation. They were even able to politely ignore one man who shouted, “Megan for Mayor!” (“Megan for President” and “Megan for Secretary of Defense” were also thrown out there.)
Eventually the float began to move, and Team USA was off, slowly trekking the dozen or so blocks it would take for them to reach City Hall. A few cars behind them was a sightseeing bus filled with young girls wearing soccer jerseys.
“The future,” one woman smiled to her friend, before heading to the subway.