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Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff visits Gotham FC, uses platform to bring visibility to women’s issues

The husband of Vice President Kamala Harris joined notable industry experts in a roundtable discussion on issues in women’s sports at Red Bull Arena prior to the 2024 NWSL Challenge Cup

Second Gentleman Douglass Emhoff at the 2024 NWS Challenge Cup at Red Bull Arena
Photo provided by NJ/NY Gotham FC

Second Gentleman Douglass Emoff is no stranger to sports, especially soccer. “I actually played soccer as a kid and played a lot of sports growing up, so soccer was kind of something I loved,” Emhoff exclusively told The Equalizer. “I have always been a huge fan of the national teams, both men and women.”

Tying his passion with purpose, Emhoff attended the National Women’s Soccer League’s 2024 Challenge Cup match at Red Bull Arena on March 15 where he also participated in a roundtable discussion on notable issues in women’s sports. 

Along with the U.S. Department of Labor’s director of the Women’s Bureau Wendy Chun-Hoon, Emhoff was joined by NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman, Gotham FC general manager Yael Averbuch West, former player and now chair of U.S. Soccer’s participant safety task force Mana Shim, and other industry experts for the hour-long discussion on a range of topics.

“It was a great time to come and really amplify these important issues,” Emhoff said. “Pay equity, equity of facilities, equity of training, travel, nutrition, coaching, the way the field looks, the way productions are, it’s important to highlight it.” 

It isn’t the first time Emhoff has been spotted at a women’s soccer event. Last September, the Second Gentleman attended Washington Spirit’s Pride Night match. The husband of the first woman Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris also led the U.S. delegation at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. 

“It didn’t turn out great for the team but the experience was really incredible,” Emhoff said. “I got to spend a lot of time with the team, both as we were getting ready to go – I did video chats with them – and then when we were there I was able to spend time at a practice, spend time with their families, and I’ve really gotten to know some of the players and executives at U.S. Soccer. I’ve become very steeped in these issues, not only of what’s on the field, but what happens off the field.”

In particular, the Second Gentleman is most impressed with the U.S. women’s national team’s fight for pay equity which has led to change not only domestically, but around the world. 

“It’s not only here in the United States. This impacts women and players in leagues and national teams all around the world,” Emhoff said. “When I was in New Zealand I met with players and executives from other leagues and other teams and they would tell me, you have no idea how amazing these women leaders are from the United States, and it’s not just sports. We talked about the impact of their leadership in all different fields because inequities exist in all fields, not just sports.” 

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Gotham FC Torch Lighting Ceremony
Photo Provided by Gotham FC

For Emhoff, sitting at the roundtable on Friday with Mana Shim was particularly meaningful as the group discussed ways to tackle inequities at all levels of women’s sports. Along with her teammate Sinead Farrelly, Shim came forward to The Athletic in 2021 with allegations of abuse they faced in the NWSL. The result of their bravery led to sweeping reforms in the NWSL and helped pave the way for the ratification of the league’s first-ever collective bargaining agreement.

“It’s a remarkable story, she has a lot of courage and will to do what she did and speak out the way she did. and call truth on something that was pretty horrible – and it led to change,” Emhoff said.” The fact that she was able to come back last season and win a championship with Gotham made it a great story. We’re going to stay in touch, continue the conversation, and continue to fight for equality but also dignity.”

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Following the roundtable discussion, Emhoff then participated in NJ/NY Gotham FC’s traditional torch-lighting ceremony prior to the game. For Emhoff, being visible at Friday’s event is an important aspect of his work in elevating women’s issues such as pay equity, childcare, and family leave.

“I think it’s important for men to really speak up and out for equity on all different issues, and not just talk about it, but do it and be visible,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to do it. Any way that I can use this position as the first Second Gentleman, married to Kamala Harris – the first woman Vice President who is a leader on all of these issues – to come in and take these opportunities and take advantage of the spotlight to shine a light in this role that I have.”

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