NEW YORK — The 207th Canyon of Heroes parade since 1886, this one for the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer team, felt like a celebration of the female athlete. From the outset down at Battery Park to the ticketed ceremony at City Hall, this appreciation for female humanity felt like an entrenched American habit , in part because it followed upon the similar World Cup ticker-tape parade of 2015.

“They inspired us with incredible skill and flawless teamwork,” the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, would say at the ceremony. “And they showed us that playing like a girl” – she applied a mocking tone to those four words – “is to be unbeatable.”

She closed with the day’s familiar chant, “USA! Equal pay!”

Soon after, Megan Rapinoe, the veteran co-captain and Golden Ball winner from a team with the rare distinction of winning a World Cup while suing its employer for equal pay, took the lectern. “We have pink hair and purple hair,” she said. “We have tattoos and dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls and everything in between. Straight girls, and gay girls!”

The City Hall audience roared.

The parade audience had begun gathering up against barricades in the dawn hours, long before parade’s outset. Girls and boys turned up in jerseys marked MORGAN and RAPINOE and LLOYD and HEATH. Vendors inched by selling flags and shirts with urges such as, “Be a part of history.” A sign recommended Rapinoe’s hairdo for president. At one building, people leaned out of office windows and tossed out confetti which often, upon landing, turned out to be some kind of outdated legal pages. At one point near the end of the route and still before the parade, up went the chant: “USA! Equal pay!”

For a long while in history, the women cheered in Canyon Of Heroes parades tended to be queens or princesses or empresses. They included Queen Elisabeth of Belgium (with the king), Crown Princess Louise of Sweden (with crown prince), Queen Marie of Romania and Queen Elizabeth II of Earth. But by the year 2019 and by Wednesday morning, people held up well-produced banners with players’ familiar first names, but with the same message as in: “Alex, We Won’t Stop Watching.”

A perfect example appeared in a mother and daughter from New Jersey.

The mother, Mia Rodriguez, wore a Mia Hamm jersey, an homage to a star from the breakthrough 1999 U.S. women’s team. Her 10-year-old daughter, Julissa, wore an Alex Morgan jersey and carried a sign that read, “Alex Morgan Are You Single Asking For My Dad.”

There they were, the generations. Mia Rodriguez idolized Hamm, played high school soccer in New Jersey and played against the eventual U.S. mainstay and 2019 team member Carli Lloyd. “I played against her and didn’t know it,” Rodriguez said. “And we got our butts whipped.”

Now she feels her daughter’s world expanding. “Changed,” she said of the eras. “And it’s amazing. It’s better. Us women are kind of coming out on top here. It’s a big deal. It’s a different time. … Now, for her, it gets better and better. It gets easier and easier.”

Nearby stood an example of another vein of the moment, a woman wearing a white T-shirt with self-made lettering: “Equal Pay & ERA.” She turned out to be a journalist and the author of a book called, “The Women Who Made New York.” While Julie Scelfo doesn’t consider herself a fervent soccer fan, she said, “I see that Megan Rapinoe and her teammates’ quest for fair treatment is part of a long struggle that human rights believers have been waging for centuries.”

The players went by, the phones went up. Rapinoe did her famed post-goal pose. By noon, she had danced a daunting amount – on the float, on her way out to greet the crowd at City Hall during the introduction of players, and repeatedly from her seat in front of that crowd.

An audience that had secured tickets boomed when Mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned “Alyssa Naeher’s epic save in the semifinals.” It let fly the “Equal pay!” chant when the head of U.S. Soccer, Carlos Cordeiro, took the lectern. He had to wait to start and then, rather than with something momentous, he began, “Wow, New York City. You have outdone yourself again. What a parade.”

He rallied, in the crowd’s eyes, even as he mispronounced Rapinoe’s surname. Rapinoe and her teammates, three months before the World Cup began, had sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination, citing wages and working conditions that are inferior to those of their male counterparts.

“We hear you, we believe in you, and we’re committed to doing right by you,” Cordeiro said.

“We believe that all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay. And together I believe that we can get this done. Because as this team has taught us, being great isn’t just how you play on the field, it’s about what you stand for off the field.”

Lloyd spoke. (“Twenty-two of the best, bestest friends,” she said of her teammates.) Morgan spoke. (“I think we have been known as America’s favorite soccer team. But from here on out we’ll just be known as ‘America’s Team.'”) Coach Jill Ellis spoke, thanking two Normandy vets and then the team. (“What a frickin’ ride.”)

Then Rapinoe spoke and led cheers for, among others, the team chef. She teased Cordeiro about “getting some stick” from the audience and said, “I’m gonna stick my neck out here a little bit. I’m gonna endorse Carlos. I think he’s with us. I think he’s on the right side of things. I think he’s gonna make things right.” She went on about his perpetual presence in France. And: “We look forward to holding those feet to the fire.”

She directed marks to people in general and said, “Be more. Be better. Be bigger than what you’ve ever been before. If this team is any representation of what you can be when you do that, please take this as an example.”

Outside the gates and across the street, a large, lingering parade crowd without tickets to the City Hall event stood, looking on and maybe even hearing. Hovering above it in statue stood Benjamin Franklin, whose expression seemed untroubled.

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