As the U.S. women’s national team celebrates its World Cup title before thousands of people during a parade in Lower Manhattan Wednesday, let’s hope the naysayers keep their thoughts to themselves.
You know: the ones who condemned the team throughout the tournament for celebrating too hard. For having the audacity to dance, sing and grab each other in bear hugs after wins. Heaven forbid they imbibe a bit of bubbly too.
The Daily Mail opined that the world was rolling its eyes as the cocky Americans declared their greatness. People on Twitter called the team sore winners and said they were not likable and lacked humility.
Let the collective eyes roll.
An emotional celebration after an adrenaline-filled win is natural, and the American women’s soccer team is hardly the first to react in such a way. Popping champagne bottles in the locker room is almost a rite of passage as much as the throwing of Gatorade coolers on the heads of football coaches. Sports is competitive. These women trained hard, played hard and deserve to reap the good results with just as much passion as any Super Bowl or World Series winner.
But apparently in the eyes of some, women aren’t supposed to do this. Once again the double standard in sports rears its ugly head.
It’s bad enough that women in soccer face pay inequities despite being as popular as their male counterparts. (These days, a lot more popular, actually.) Now they are expected to celebrate like good proper ladies as well or risk being admonished by the etiquette police. We all know how it goes. Emotion in women is irrational or hysterical and in men passionate. Tennis great Serena Williams was fined $17,000 and castigated for arguing with a referee at the U.S. Open last year. Emotionally volatile John McEnroe came to her defense at the time saying he said much worse during his tennis days with no repercussions. Ms. Williams herself also let it be known that she thought her treatment was unfair.
The women’s soccer team also has chosen not to stand down or be quiet. Instead, they have used their wins as a platform and are teaching young girls everywhere about not backing down.
Striker Alex Morgan complained about a double standard after she was taken to task for sipping an imaginary cup of tea after winning against England. “...we have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much, or do something but always in a limited fashion,” she said, according to the Associated Press. Turns out the gesture was an ode to “Game of Thrones” and not a swipe at England. (And even if it was a bit of pre-July 4th nose-rubbing, what, is 243 years too soon for England to take a joke?)
Forward Megan Rapino, named most valuable player in the tournament, used the world stage to push for equal pay, fully recognizing the importance of the moment and how the fourth World Cup win by the women’s team legitimizes that effort even more. (She is also an outspoken champion of LGBT rights, among other causes.) The women will get a $4 million bonus for their win, while last year the men’s World Cup winners earned a $28 million bonus.
Shouts of “equal pay” and boos directed at soccer’s international governing body reverberated from the crowd in Lyon on Sunday, showing that the team has its allies as well.
We don’t see arrogance when the team celebrates but confidence. The team doesn’t lack humility but is filled with pride. And they just backed it up on the biggest possible stage, with targets on their backs the entire time. They should be allowed to commemorate their successes without critical eyes on them.
So as the team makes its way through the the streets of Manhattan Wednesday, we hope they celebrate as loudly, joyously and confidently as they want to.