Abby Wambach, international soccer’s all-time scoring leader, said Saturday she is “embarrassed and ashamed” about her arrest last weekend for driving under the influence.
Speaking at Georgetown University’s OWN IT Summit in Washington, a leadership conference that she committed to attend long before the arrest, the former U.S. women’s national team star spoke of the incident during a segment hosted by CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell.
“You guys might think because I play on the national team – I played on the national team; I’m still working on the past tense – that I am this superstar and whatnot,” she said. “But this is actually a really good lesson for all of you, no matter what, because you guys are going to become our next leaders, you guys are going to become the next thing for this country.
“Everybody makes mistakes. I made a mistake. I am owning it.”
Wambach, who retired in December after the World Cup victory tour, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants. She had been arrested in Portland, Ore., after allegedly failing to stop at a red light and failing a sobriety test.
In Oregon, the accused are encouraged to plead not guilty in their initial court appearance in order to thoroughly review their case and make an educated decision if they later decide to change their plea. Wambach seems likely to enter a diversion program, which would allow her to avoid a conviction.
The day after the arrest, Wambach posted on her Facebook page that she takes full responsibility for her actions.
She is scheduled to appear in Multnomah County Circuit Court on April 26.
Wambach implored the Georgetown audience to “learn from the mistake that I’ve made for your own life and impact yourself and impact the people in your life to make sure that this never gets repeated in your world. I know I am going to do that.”
She said she plans to visit family in western New York this weekend, a clan that includes several teenage nieces and nephews.
“If you do something like I did last weekend, it’s not just you. Your whole family has to deal with it. In all of life, it’s not just you. It’s who you work for, it’s the school you went to, it’s the coaches you have, it’s the teachers you’ve had, it’s your parents, it’s your family, it’s your friends. Everything you do has an impact, has a ripple effect, both good and bad. Just make sure the good column is a lot longer than the bad.”
During her appearance, Wambach also shared broad thoughts on the discrimination complaint filed by five former U.S. teammates last week.
“For so long, our society has this innate belief system that women are less than and should be paid less than. . . . The reality is, we’re moving into a new phase of humanity in a generation where we can all be proud to admit that women are now equal to men in not just the way they carry themselves but the way they produce.”
Wambach, who was at the forefront of women’s soccer’s battle against playing on artificial turf at the World Cup last summer in Canada, admitted regret in not furthering the pay issue as a player.
Upon retirement, Wambach said, “I was seeing all the things I didn’t push. I didn’t push the envelope in certain ways, whether it be about women’s pay and the gender pay gap issue. I started getting angry at myself because I know I was in a position where I could have influenced not just my team, but maybe millions of people around the world that this is a real issue. ‘Hey, look at us, look at what’s happening.’ . . . I was so disappointed because I should have done more.”
She added: “The gender pay gap is a huge issue right now, but why do we want to stop there? We have gay rights issues and women’s issues. Why not go after all of them and tackle real, true equality? I am not scared.”