Earlier this spring, Nike debuted its upcoming women’s releases, including 14 FIFA Women’s World Cup national team kits, at a global event in Paris. More than 40 top female athletes—Simone Biles, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and more—walked down a runway that Nike had built inside the Palais Brongniart, a historic stock exchange, in front of hundreds of influencers, journalists, and designers like Virgil Abloh, Jerry Lorenzo, Chitose Abe of Sacai, and Yoon Ambush. The event and the new kits, which were designed specifically for the women’s teams, are part of Nike’s growing focus on women’s sport.
And all eyes will be on the U.S. Women’s National Team in France when the 2019 World Cup kicks off next month as the U.S., ranked No. 1 in the world, looks to add a fourth World Cup trophy to its arsenal. This weekend, the women have a tuneup against South Africa, and if anyone knows the pressure they’re facing heading into June’s tournament, it’s Brandi Chastain, the U.S.W.N.T. legend who will forever be remembered for her Cup-clinching penalty kick and celebration in 1999.
During the event, we had the chance to speak to Chastain about what it was like walking in the show, women’s soccer, and the upcoming 20th anniversary of her legendary penalty kick. Of course, you know we had to ask her what she thinks about the U.S.W.N.T. suing U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
How did it feel to not only walk in, but open, this Nike fashion show?
There’s something to say about being first—having to walk out first, being in the first-ever Women’s World Cup, being in the first Olympics… There’s this nervous energy that you have. My heart was beating like I was running.
You couldn’t tell, though.
Oh, thank you. There’s something about when you cross that threshold. You cross the line to go onto the field and all of that goes away. But it was awesome.
I’m an old lady in soccer, but to see where we have come is just… I mean, I thanked all the players and I said, “This is a historical moment for women in sports.”
It’s almost the 20th anniversary of your legendary penalty kick at the 1999 Women’s World Cup. What comes to mind when you think back to that?
I think how simple things were. Everything is in front of everybody all the time now. You get information immediately. The amount of work that every player did to make sure that the World Cup in 1999 was shared by as many people as… I mean, we had 90,000-plus [people] in the [Rose Bowl], and that never happened in women’s sports before. The work that it took to make that happen was literally like knocking on doors. And now, just to fast-forward to today, it just makes me so grateful for the opportunity that we had and that we built a really solid foundation as a team for this generation of women to be really lauded by even non-sports people.
I told the little girls who were sitting around—I said, “This is a moment in women’s history and you’re a part of it, so anytime you think that you want to do something or you dream about something, you can do it.” When I was their age, women’s soccer wasn’t an option beyond playing in your local park or in your local club games. It’s phenomenal.
News broke recently that the U.S. women’s soccer team is suing U.S. Soccer. What do you think about that?
I have emotions of gratitude that the women are willing to step out. It takes a lot of courage to be able to stand up and say, “No, it’s not good enough. No, we won’t settle for that.” And they’re making a wonderful statement. The timing is tough, I think, because the World Cup is less than 90 days away, but to make big change, you have to have eyes and ears, and the World Cup is the biggest event ever. In that way, I completely appreciate and respect that it’s happening now. And it should’ve happened a long time ago.
What do you think that says about women’s sports?
It wasn’t like we weren’t doing it before. We were standing up and were willing to give up Olympic games for better contracts—not just for the team presently playing, but going forward as well. I feel like this group has had great role models and mentors before them to say, “Look, if it’s not right, don’t accept it. If you believe your value is more…” And value isn’t always in dollars and cents, either. It’s in voice; it’s in appearance; it’s in the whole package. In that way, I feel they’ve had examples already. We’ve made incremental movement, and now we’re gonna make even more movement.
I was born in the ’60s. This is a whole new ball game for women, and we’re not even exactly where we need to be, but it’s still light-years from where we were.