It’s Saturday morning. I woke up after a shaky night of sleep in my air conditioned room with my blackout curtains blocking the sun from getting in. I’m scrolling through my phone, and I see a post about the US Women’s National Team winning the ESPY award for Team of the Year this past Wednesday. I’m a huge soccer fan, and loved following the USWNT on their journey to their fourth World Cup victory.
Then I made the mistake of reading the comments on the post. Usually I don’t give trolls the time of day, but today it really irked me more than normal. Calling this particular group of women “un-American”. Referring to Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe as “that fella with the silver hair”. There are so many more, but I can’t bring myself to type some of the vitriol that I read. So, instead of running to the gym like I normally do when I wake up, I sat down at my desk because this is ridiculous and I need to throw some word vomit at you.
Pardon my French, but what the fuck is wrong with people? Almost everything I read as negative I actually see as positive. And not because of some different political idealogy, but because I have this crazy idea that all people should be created equal. So let’s take a quick look at a few of the reasons that these whiney, middle-aged white people are up in arms.
The way they played and celebrated…particularly against Thailand
In their 13-0 win over Thailand in the first game of the group stage, much was said about how our ladies carried themselves. “They should have taken their foot off the accelerator.” “I can’t believe they celebrated every goal as if it was their first.” “This women’s team is classless.”
If I’m completely honest, this is laughable and absurdist commentary coming from people who have NO IDEA what it’s like to be in the position the USWNT found themselves in. Think about it. What is it that you do for a living? If there was a way for you to get up in front of everyone in your industry and prove your worth, prove you’re the best, would you do it? I’m willing to bet that at least half of you are going to say yes, but would rather do your job out of the spotlight. And that’s fine. Those of you who say yes and mean it? I praise you.
However, for some reason, there are people who aren’t praising the USWNT for it. The fact of the matter is they were aiming to be top of their sport. The World Cup is the stage on which they can prove that. So they gave it their all. And were excited about it. If the whole world was watching you succeed you’d be elated too. They worked hard, regardless of the skillset of their opponents, to get those goals. Celebrate that hard work.
But there’s also a level of respect for your opponent. It may seem counterintuitive to some, but if you let up on your opponent and start playing keep away, that’s actually worse. The Thai players and coaches even came out and defended the US women for playing the way they did. They have a smaller, less successful system, and playing against top tier competition at their best is going to be the greatest barometer they have for where they stand and where they need to go.
There’s a level of complacency that can set in when playing down to your opponent. I was pretty stoked to not see that happen here.
The real “issue”? They’re women
All that aside, the main reason people had a problem with this is because this is a team of women. If it was the men’s team nobody would give a shit about the celebrations or the high score. Nope. It’s the perception of these incredible women not being “lady-like”. I don’t know what to say to those people other than it’s 2019 and there’s still a double standard? Grow up and understand the times are changing. And for the better.
The perception of how “American” they are
There’s a lot about this with which I struggle. I’m on a particular side of the anthem debate, and we’ve covered it here at The Turf a few times before. Never have I understood how kneeling during the national anthem was disrespectful. It’s not like the players who have done so are laying on the ground, facing the other way, yelling, or degrading the flag. No, they are silently dropping to one knee in peaceful protest of what some people have done in the name of the flag. To marginalized groups of Americans. It has nothing to do with our troops or disrespecting those who serve this country the right way.
Rapinoe stood quietly at the end of the line before each game, or on the sideline when she didn’t start, not singing the anthem. Where’s the disrespect there? I struggle. Then I remember she’s a gay woman, and of course people are pissed she’s not “conforming”. It’s hateful and disgusting and I, again, will never understand it.
Beyond the anthem crap, there was a moment during the celebration when Allie Long dropped the flag she was carrying to pose with the trophy, Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan. Kelley O’Hara ran in to pick it up, and Long immediately grabbed it and handed it to O’Hara. It was a moment of “OMG WE’RE WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS YES I’LL TAKE THIS PICTURE”. Not a moment of disrespecting the flag. However the haters dove all over it and focused on the 2 seconds the flag was on the pitch instead of the fact that the USWNT had completed their title defense, winning their second straight World Cup.
Then there’s the White House speaking out against Rapinoe. And that I can’t even get into because anything involving our Cheetoh-in-Chief makes my blood boil.
However the hottest topic surrounding the USWNT isn’t that they’re supposedly brash and disrespectfully un-American. It’s that they have a lawsuit open against their own federation demanding equal pay. I’ve seen statistics on both sides of this “debate”. One side – the men’s game brings in more money, therefore they get more money. The other – the women’s team is significantly more successful and deserves their share.
Look, I’m not about to get into the numbers and do a full analysis. What I am going to say is if you think this argument is ridiculous and shouldn’t even be happening because it’s the women’s game and not the men’s, you’re an asshole.
I’m proud that this team went to France, won every game, and represented me. They represented young kids across the country, and showed them how, if they follow their dreams, they can do anything.
But there’s still a lot to be done. The fact of the matter is, if we want the USWNT to be paid equally, we need to do our part as well. Rachel Maddow asked Rapinoe exactly how we can do that. Her answer? We need to buy women’s jerseys, go to games (and not just the national team, NWSL as well), and spread the word.
Megan Rapinoe is a hero on and off the pitch
Getting a little bit away from all the hate, I want to leave you with some thoughts. On Wednesday, before flying to Los Angeles to attend the ESPY Awards, the USWNT paraded up the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan. I’m lucky enough to work on Broadway, so I was able to watch the parade out my office windows.
While looking down at the floats rolling up the street, streamers and confetti flying from rooftops and windows, and hearing the screaming cheers coming from the crowd I was at a loss for words. People came out in droves to support this team. The number of young women out in their jerseys, cheering on their heroes, dreaming of what could be for them was nothing short of inspiring.
At the end of the parade, the team gathered behind a podium at City Hall, and co-captain Megan Rapinoe gave an impassioned speech on inclusivity. I’d break it down, but I couldn’t do it justice so here are her words.
Often times I forget that I grew up in a pretty accepting environment. I was taught well, I think. Sure, there are times in which people I know say something that they probably shouldn’t, have a strong opinion that shows clear bias against a marginalized group, or crack an offensive joke. It doesn’t mean I love them any less or shut them out of my life. That’s my time to stand up and educate them. Then, of course, if their bias and perceived bigotry grows, okay I have no space for that in my life. But I have to try.
These women, this USWNT, are fighting every day. Amid a lawsuit against their own federation they went out and won the highest honor they can in their world for that same federation. But it’s not just about the sport. They’re fighting to make things better. Not just for themselves, but for the next generation. Isn’t that the whole point of community?
They have my respect. They have my support. I stand with them.
Where do you stand?