Outspoken forward Megan Rapinoe has delivered a message of unity that transcends professional sport.
The co-captain of the World Cup-winning US women’s football team has delivered a show-stopping speech during the team's victory parade in New York, sending a powerful message with ramifications far beyond football.
Star forward Megan Rapinoe, who has recently hit headlines after passionately demanding equal pay for female athletes, urged the crowd to "make this world a better place".
"This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better, we have to love more, hate less, listen more and talk less, we have to know that this is everybody's responsibility," she said.
"Do what you can, do what you have to do. Step outside yourself, be more, be better, be bigger than you have ever been before.
"If this team is any representation of what you can be when you do that, please take this as an example."
The speech, which garnered repeated cheers from the crowd, followed a celebration-filled parade through New York, with thousands gathering to catch a glimpse of the champion team.
The US team defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in the Women's World Cup in France on Monday to take home their fourth world title.
"This group is so resilient, so tough, has such a sense of humour, is just so badass," Rapinoe said, pointing to her teammates behind her.
"There's nothing that can faze this group, we're chilling, we got tea-sipping, we got celebration. We got pink hair and purple hair. We got tattoos and dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls and everything in between. We got straight girls and gay girls."
A Golden Boot recipient, off the field, Rapinoe has been outspoken against the Trump administration and a strong advocate for equal pay following a Guardian report that revealed a $730,000 pay gap between the US women's and men's teams, when they reached the quarter-final stage. The report predicted an even larger gap for winning the tournament.
In a video circulated last month, Rapinoe can be heard saying she would not visit the White House if the team won the World Cup. In response, US President Donald Trump tweeted that "Megan should WIN first before she TALKS!".
Asked by CNN what she would like to say to the US President on Wednesday, Rapinoe said: “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of colour, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.”
Prior to the parade, New York governor Andrew Cuomo took the opportunity to announce a new 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' law.
"I'm going to sign a law today that says it's not just the right thing to do. It's not just the moral thing to do. It is also the law in the state of New York. And my friends it is now the law in the state of New York. Equal pay for equal work," he said.
Governor Cuomo said the new law will close a loophole that allowed employers to claim a job was not "equal work" but "similar work".
"This now changes the law to say comparable work, if it is basically the same work the pay has to be the same," he added.
The issue of equal pay also came up during the victory parade when a speech by US Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro was interrupted by chants of "equal pay!", despite declaring his support for the issue.
“We believe all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay. [We believe] together we can get this done," he said.
During the parade, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris posted videos to Instagram showing her using the team's lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation as confetti and can later be heard saying "pay us bitch".
The team launched legal action against its national federation over the gender pay gap in April and the issue hit a pressure point 24 hours before the women's world cup final when Rapinoe slammed FIFA for disrespecting women.
Following the grand final, fans at the stadium launched into a chant of "equal pay" and Rapinoe used a post-match press conference to call for the "the next step" towards equal pay.