Winners, on the field and off.
As a country, we’ve long found pride and a sense of community through competitive sports and the victories of “our” athletes and teams, whether local, regional, or national. From youth participation and all that it imbues in our children to elite level competition and the myriad rooting interests we develop throughout our lives, sports are a cultural phenomenon the depth and breadth of which has few parallels.
The USWNT’s recent World Cup performance has earned the team, its star players, and women’s soccer, much due acclaim in recent days. They took care of business on the field and are using their platform to advocate for equal pay, LGBTQ acceptance, and more. If this makes you uncomfortable – good. Change isn’t easy, but they’re arguing for a more equal society and we should listen.
Sport isn’t some siloed, esoteric enterprise that stands apart from our broader culture. Quite the opposite is true, sports have always reflected and often led, on a range of social and political issues.
- Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics.
- Jackie Robinson in MLB (too late, but well before the Civil Rights Act).
- USA Hockey in Lake Placid.
- The 1999 Women’s World Cup win.
All of these performances had lasting effects far beyond the field of play. To argue otherwise ignores history and context.
Criticism of the Team
In response to Megan Rapinoe’s assertion that the team wouldn’t visit the White House: “they should respect the President and country”.
Fun facts: the Warriors haven’t visited Trump and this year’s Patriots visit quietly fell by the wayside. I don’t need to recite all the reasons I wouldn’t go and I can’t know the leading motives of any of the teams, but if you think they should show up for the photo op and pledge fealty to a racist and anti-LGBT administration, you’re a gutless sycophant, not a proud patriot.
They celebrate too much, or the wrong way.
Among pro athletes, inclusive of soccer players, they’re rather subdued. If they were men, you’d ignore it. Supporting data: all men’s team sports.
They “stomped on” / “danced on” the flag.
This is false. Yes, it was dropped during the post-game celebration. This is wrong and shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. But in the moment, distracted by having achieved the pinnacle of your career in sports, things happen. Get over it.
The flag was then quickly picked up by a teammate, not stomped or danced upon. If you’re upset about the flag being on the ground for 2-3 seconds, that’s not what you’re actually upset about.
This is the best women’s soccer team the world has seen. They dominated the deepest Women’s World Cup field in history.
Off the field, they are using their success and their platform for good. Their impact is significant and I believe lasting.
We celebrate winners, always have. We, with the benefit of history, celebrate agents of positive change. They are both. As such, they are heroes. Not just to the tens of thousands of girls soccer players they will inspire for a generation, not just to the LGBT community, not just to women, no, this team should be embraced as heroes by all Americans.
Still don’t like this team? Still want them to “shut up and dribble”? They won’t.
Watch the NYC celebration here and below. If you oppose these positive and inclusive messages and think this group un-patriotic, our world views are irreconcilable. History will judge. I like my odds, a lot.
If you’re feeling aggrieved by this team, their strength and their voice, think long and hard about why. You’ll find answers in the realms of blind loyalty to POTUS, the fake patriotism of right-wing media, likely mixed with heavy doses of sexism and fear. Prove me wrong.