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Why Abby Wambach felt "anger bubbling up" on stage with NBA, NFL stars

In “Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game,” the co-captain of the 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup champion team and two-time Olympic gold medalist urges women to make failure their fuel, lead from the bench and demand the ball.

“This book is my attempt to try to minimize women’s fear about what is out there and to engage and invite them into their power,” Abby Wambach told “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell on the “CBS This Morning” podcast.

The book, inspired by Wambach’s 2018 commencement address at Barnard College, comes out amid a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by all 28 players of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. In the lawsuit, which was filed on International Women’s Day in March, the players claim the U.S. Soccer Federation is in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The players are asking for equitable compensation and working conditions compared with the men’s national team.

“We win championships. We win World Cups. We win Olympics,” Wambach said. “Our men have never placed in the top three in any one of those events, and I think that is a huge thing. We’re not saying, ‘Hey, look, we get the same results as the men so we want the same pay.’ We are actually outperforming what the men are doing.”

Wambach retired from soccer in 2015 at the end of a 10-game victory tour after winning that year’s World Cup Championship. She finished her career with 184 goals – the most of any player, male or female, in history. In 2016, she received the ESPYs Icon Award, alongside basketball legend Kobe Bryant and football star Peyton Manning. As they left the stage that night, Wambach felt angry that the men were walking away with financial security while she would have to keep working.

“The anger bubbling up was a really good clue for me to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Wambach said. “It was the clue that has led me down this path to this speech, to this book.”

The 2016 ESPYS - Show
Honorees Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach and Kobe Bryant accept the Icon Award onstage during the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Wambach found inspiration for “Wolfpack” after learning about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Before that, the overpopulation of deer ate away much of the vegetation along the riverbanks, leading to erosion that caused the rivers to stop running as well as they had in years past.

“You think about wolves and you think about them maybe being a threat to the system, but actually they ended up being the system and the ecosystem’s salvation,” Wambach said. “I want women everywhere to understand that we are the wolves.”

Listen to Wambach’s full conversation with O’Donnell on the “CBS This Morning” podcast to hear the eight new rules for women outlined in “Wolfpack;” along with her thoughts on the problematic messaging in the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, the importance of representation in positions of power and why work-life balance is an impossible goal.

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