National Press Club

Soccer's Abby Wambach says inequity remains in women's sports despite big gains

October 28, 2015 | By Jesse Rifkin | jesserifkin01@gmail.com

Soccer star Abby Wambach speaks about her retirement and gender inequality in sports at an October 28, 2015 National Press Club luncheon. Seated, right, is Sarah Huffman, Wambach's wife.

Soccer star Abby Wambach speaks about her retirement and gender inequality in sports at an October 28, 2015 National Press Club luncheon. Seated, right, is Sarah Huffman, Wambach's wife.

Photo/Image: Ferdous Al-Faruque

U.S. Women's Soccer star Abby Wambach, in her first public remarks since announcing she'll retire from the sport next month, praised the media Wednesday at a National Press Club speakers luncheon for shining a spotlight on women's sports.

“My sincere thanks to those who pushed to cover the Women’s World Cup,” Wambach said."The media helped change not just my life but also many young lives, sending the message that they can do whatever they want in life.”

Media attention helped bolster support for Women's World Cup soccer over her 14-year career, Wambach said.

“I would look in the crowd and see literally 800 people in the stands 15 years ago, but now there’s 35- or 40,000 packing stadiums for our victory tour now,” Wambach said.

Wambach, 35, joined her teammates from the World Cup-winning U.S. women's national soccer team at the White House on Tuesday where President Obama praised them as an example for America's children. Following the meeting Tuesday, Wambach, soccer's international scoring leader, announced her retirement.

The U.S. team beat Japan in July to win the 2015 FIFA World Cup. The match drew a record-setting TV audience for Fox. The broadcast attracted 22 million viewers, more than any game of the World Series or NBA Finals in the past year.

“Investing in women’s sports is not just a feel-good thing, but a smart business decision,” Wambach told the National Press Club audience Wednesday. “Just ask Fox.”

While women's sports now draw attention and investment, gender inequities remain, Wambach said.

“Every male who won the World Cup during my career didn’t need another job after they retired,” she noted. “You see women players who deserve everything the men get. I want to change that world in every way, from the locker room to the boardroom.”

The executive committee for FIFA, the governing body for international soccer, has 24 men and three women, Wambach noted.

Wambach began her professional career in Washington, D.C. in 2002 playing on the now-defunct Washington Freedom alongside Mia Hamm, whose record for most goals in international soccer Wambach broke in 2013. She also met her wife, fellow soccer player Sarah Huffman, while on that team.

More photos of the event can be found here.