Jul 20, 2023 - Podcasts

Women's World Cup shows women's soccer is bigger than ever

The Women’s World Cup kicked off on Thursday in Australia and New Zealand. And it's on track to become the most attended standalone women’s sporting event in history, according to FIFA. What sets this year’s contest apart?

  • Plus, "Oppenheimer" brings painful memories for New Mexico Hispanics.
  • And, Wesleyan University becomes the latest to end legacy admissions.

Guests: Axios' Jeff Tracy and Russell Contreras.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, July 20th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today on the show: "Oppenheimer" brings painful memories for New Mexico Hispanics. Plus, Wesleyan University becomes the latest to end legacy admissions.

But first: the Women’s World Cup shows women’s soccer getting bigger and better than ever. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: The Women's World Cup kicked off today in Australia and New Zealand, with a record 32 team field, up from 24. Players have fought for years for equal treatment and resources to men's soccer. And this year, the Women's World Cup is on track to becoming the most attended, stand alone women's sporting event in history, that's according to FIFA.

The U. S. women's team is looking for a three-peat as star, Megan Rapinoe laces up her boots for a last hurrah. And already it's a cup full of “firsts” and “biggests”. Axios Jeff Tracy has more. Hey, Jeff.

JEFF TRACY: Hey, Niala.

NIALA: Can you tell us about some of the big firsts at this year's World Cup?

NIALA: As you mentioned already, uh, 32 teams up from 24, uh, so the biggest ever. it's also the first Women's World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere. and the first to be co-hosted by two countries, New Zealand and Australia sharing those duties.

There's one more pretty cool first that sort of fits into what you said about just, you know, the game is growing, it's coming up to parody with the men's game. For the first time ever in the Women's World Cup every single team will have a basecamp. It's called, which really simply is just a hotel and sort of a training facility. It sounds so simple and like something they should always have had, but past Women's World Cups, they've been sort of traveling around changing venues and places every few days. And base camps are something that the Men's World Cup have had for a long time.

NIALA: So those are some of the firsts. What about some of the biggest things about this year's World Cup?

JEFF: 2019, four years ago, the last world women's world cup, the total prize pool for the women was $30 million. For reference, the prize pool for the men's world cup last fall in Qatar was over 400 million. There is still a disparity there, but it's up to 110 million this year for the women. And not only is it just a much bigger prize pool, in general, every player is guaranteed to get at least $30,000. And sort of tied into that, the viewership is expected to be by far the biggest. Uh, there was a record 1.1 billion viewers, across all the games, in 2019, and that's expected to nearly double to two billion viewers, that's a quarter of the world's population.

NIALA: Can we talk about the pay increase for the U. S. women's team and how significant that is, especially after their successful fight for more equal pay?

JEFF: Yeah. I mean, they sort of led the charge here. They've been sort of you know, a rising tide, for the women's game across the globe. They fought for six or so years, in court, to get equal pay with the men's team. Finally last spring they landed a historic collective bargaining agreement with the US Soccer Federation to get that equal pay with the men.

NIALA: How likely, can you tell us how well or how likely the U. S. is to fare, especially as fans this year are saying farewell to star Megan Rapinoe?

JEFF: Until someone else takes their throne they are the two time reigning champions. Uh, they've won it four times total. and they're still the favorites, but not nearly as heavily so. Rapinoe probably won't feature quite as heavily as she has in the past. This is her fourth World Cup. She's 38 years old. but she's been a goal scoring machine, in those first three World Cups. And she was so instrumental in the equal pay fight that we just talked about. I am struggling to think of a more iconic sports photo than during the quarterfinal against France four years ago when she, you know, scored the only two goals for us that game and put her arms up in pride and glory. And, that image is going to be with this team forever.

NIALA: Speaking of images, there was a French ad that made waves recently that aims to tear down stereotypes about women's soccer. What do we need to know about this ad?

JEFF: If you haven't seen it. it shows, uh, famous faces like Kylian Mbappe, and others on the French men's team, just playing incredible soccer, and spoiler alert at the end of the, uh, commercial, it, It sort of rewinds and shows you that these have been the women's team all along, they can do everything the men can do, and, this game, this tournament is exactly as worth watching as the men's tournament was last fall.

NIALA: Axios Sports’ Jeff Tracy. Thanks, Jeff.

JEFF: Thank you.

NIALA: Wesleyan University announced yesterday it will end legacy admissions, or favoring relatives of alumni in admissions. It follows MIT, Amherst, Carnegie Mellon and several others in ending the practice. Advocates say legacy admissions tend to favor white, wealthy students – and the practice has come under more scrutiny recently, especially following the Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action. Wesleyan president Michael Roth told the New York Times that even though legacy admissions played a negligible role in the admissions process, it had become a quote “sign of unfairness to the outside world.”

In a moment: why some Latinos in New Mexico say the movie “Oppenheimer” erases their story.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

OPPENHEIMER TRAILER: We're in a race against the Nazis. If the Nazis have a bomb.

NIALA: That's from the trailer for the new movie “Oppenheimer,” which releases this weekend. It tells the story of the father of the atomic bomb and is expected to be one of the summer's biggest blockbusters.

Axios' Russell Contreras is here with one part of the story that's often overlooked, the Latino and Native Americans who lived in New Mexico where the bomb was first detonated.

How is the story of “Oppenheimer” and the atomic bomb remembered differently in New Mexico?

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Well, for some folks in Southern New Mexico, the bomb was the beginning of a painful... multi generational health struggle. There were many folks located near the Trinity Test in historic Hispanic villages and the Mescalero Apache. Who suffered from the dust after the Trinity Test. These folks have been saying for years that they've suffered from generations of various rare cancers and have never been acknowledged. So when a film like “Oppenheimer” comes about they say look you are continuing to ignore our story. And it's time that you hear us out.

NIALA: Let's go back to some of those original stories. You have spoken to some of the survivors.

RUSS: Exactly. I spoke to Henry Herrera. When he was 87 years old, back in 2021, he is believed to be one of the last eyewitnesses of the Trinity Test. He saw the bomb go off when he was 11 years old from his village in Tularosa, New Mexico.

HENRY HERRERA: I was at home, and my mama, when that thing exploded, she had just hung up her white clothes on the clothesline, and god dang, you ought to see the god dang dust that exploded all over town, you know, from the bomb.

NIALA: He has since passed away. What are different advocates who are aware of the movie now saying to you?

RUSS: When I spoke to Tina Cordova a few days ago, she is a cancer survivor whose father also died of cancer. They had lived near the Trinity Test in Tularosa, New Mexico. And this is what she said...

TINA CORODVA: The Manhattan Project was a total invasion of our lands and our lives and the filming of “Oppenheimer” when they came here was the same thing. And we've done everything, to reach out to the filmmakers from the time that they were here filming, I mean, there's still efforts being made nationally to get to the filmmakers and say, just include a message at the end of the film that acknowledges the sacrifice and suffering of the people of New Mexico.

NIALA: Did you hear back from the studio that produced “Oppenheimer,” you reached out to them as well?

RUSS: Yes, we didn't hear back from Universal. We also reached out to the U.S. Justice Department. They're in charge of a program. Where they give out compensation to those who are near a nuclear test. New Mexico currently is not included in a federal law that gives out compensation to people who are around nuclear tests.

And a lot of folks in New Mexico say this was out of racism. They were the first guinea pigs of nuclear testing, in this case, atomic testing, and they'd never been included. The justice department said any changes that allow New Mexicans to get compensation must come as a result of changes in the federal law. Right now, Senator Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat of New Mexico, has reintroduced a bill to include the people of New Mexico, but right now, it's at a standstill.

NIALA: So, Russ, given everything that we have just talked about, what is the legacy of Oppenheimer in New Mexico?

RUSS: There are some people in the scientific community that continue to see “Oppenheimer” as a sort of hero figure. He is credited with helping end World War II. And in New Mexico, it sparked an industry of scientific research that has continued today with Los Alamos National Labs, Sandia Lab, a whole industry for military jobs. But on the other side, we were mining for uranium, and that uranium has polluted Navajo lands. And Oppenheimer also founded Los Alamos and basically the federal government seized land that was owned by Hispanic homesteaders. So there's a mixed legacy here, on the one hand he's viewed as a pioneer. On the other hand, he's viewed as a villain who never apologized for the legacy that he left behind.

NIALA: Russell Contreras covers race and justice for Axios from New Mexico. Thanks, Russ.

RUSS: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s it for us today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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