20 years after Brandi Chastain changed the game, the USWNT continues to influence through athletic excellence.
The squad, which has been entrenched in social, political and athletic controversy for everything from their fight for equal pay and opinions of the U.S. President, to the demonstrative nature of their celebrations, advanced to the 2019 World Cup finals and is looking to become the first back-to-back World Cup winners since Germany in 2003 and 2007.
Their social impact is unquestionable as they have been central figures in every women’s empowerment shift in sports dating back to the 1996 Olympics, a watershed moment in the advancement of women’s athletics.
Show Us the Bag!
With the games underway, an internal conflict brewed as a U.S. federal agency looked at a wage discrimination complaint filed by five members of the 2015 World Cup Championship Squad, charging that they were paid millions less than their male counterparts. The women were seeking a new contract with U.S. Soccer, commensurate to their overwhelming track record of success, especially in comparison to the not as successful men’s team.
While they didn’t win the gold medal, they secured an even greater victory on April 5, 2017, when U.S. Women’s Soccer and U.S. Soccer reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement that would, among other things, lead to a pay increase.
That same standard of bravery, flair, confidence, and raw expression has made the women’s team the most compelling story in women’s soccer for the past two decades. While men’s pro soccer continues to flounder in the U.S., the USWNT has remained a paragon of excellence, and on Tuesday evening they reached their third straight World Cup final with a thrilling 2-1 victory over England.
The USWNT has been the shining light representing American soccer in the Olympics and World Cup going back to the glory days, from legends like Mia Hamm, goalie Briana Scurry, Michelle Akers and Kristine Lilly to the new era legends like Cari Lloyd, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, and Alex Morgan.
The Celebration Seen ‘Round The World
How fitting it is that US Women’s soccer elevates to the forefront of the sports conscious on the 20-year anniversary of one of the most iconic and progressive moments in sports history.
At the 1999 World Cup, Brandi Chastain shot to fame after scoring the winning penalty in the Women’s World Cup final. She then ripped off her shirt in an unforgettable controversial goal celebration that some felt was controversial.
The spontaneity of Chastain’s actions, and the media circus and litany of opinions that followed, sparked a revolution and some say it put women’s soccer on the map.
Via theguardian.com. “In the days, weeks and months following the USA’s World Cup victory, Chastain was forced to field frankly ridiculous criticism that her celebration had been calculated and disrespectful; that it was in some way unladylike for a female athlete to tear of her shirt while lost in a moment of exhilaration. “I was grateful for those comments because it gave me a new platform to express myself about what sport has given me,” Chastain said.
She represented the jubilation of a strong, powerful athlete expressing herself in an uninhibited fashion. It was a wake-up call for people stuck in time: “Yes, women do show savage emotion in times of triumph, just like the men.”
She represented the feelings of women all over the globe who weren’t going to sit quietly, check their emotions and be passive in victory. They were going to be expressive, genuine, boisterous and badass if so compelled.
Lasting Impact Of Loud Greatness
20 years later, the US Women’s team is still inspiring the world, crushing stereotypes and using their valuable moment on the world stage to make a difference. The players received plenty of flack for celebrating during their 13-0 thrashing of Thailand, an outmatched squad lacking funding and resources. Some accused the women’s team of pouring it on and trying to embarrass Thailand, but that wasn’t it at all.
For all that have issue with many goals: for some players this is there first World Cup goal, and they should be excited. Imagine it being you out there.This is your dream of playing and then scoring in a World Cup. Celebrate.Would you tell a men’s team to not score or celebrate?
— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) June 11, 2019
For the twenty three women on the team, this is their moment of truth.
The World Cup is an event that every young soccer player dreams to be a part of someday. It only happens every four years and if the USWNT held back their emotions, or failed to take advantage of the world stage at a time when they have so much to say, they’d only be doing a disservice to those who follow, and look up to, them.
Team USA star Alex Morgan brings creative genius and elegant grit to the women’s team. She used the criticism from the Thailand blowout to bring attention to the larger issue, which is that not every football federation supports its women’s teams as they should.
The bottom line is that this game was not fair or ideal for either team. The #USWNT shouldn’t even have to consider not playing & celebrating 100%. Thailand shouldn’t be competing from such a disadvantaged position (support & funding). Both did their best given the situation
— Yael Averbuch West (@Yael_Averbuch) June 11, 2019
“For these 24 teams it’s a great opportunity for women to showcase what they’ve worked their entire life towards,” Morgan said. “Not every federation gives the same financial effort to their women’s side, and that’s unfortunate, but I hope that this World Cup, with it being the largest audience of a World Cup… it encourages FIFA to put a bit of pressure on those respective federations to put more effort into their women’s sides.”
Genderless Swag In Full View
After breaking the tie against England, Morgan ran to the side and celebrated with a tea-drinking mime, which has circulated around the world and interpreted in various ways. Some recognized she was “sipping tea”, others saw it as a mockery of a favorite English pastime. Some even thought that she was smoking a blunt.
You can’t front. That was a straight gangster move by Morgan, who understands the value of great entertainment, uninhibited expression and attracting eyes to the women’s game.
“I wanted to keep it interesting,” she told reporters. “I know Megan Rapinoe has the best celebration. I had to try and step up this game. I feel like this team has had so much thrown at them and us. I feel like we didn’t take an easy route through this tournament and ‘that’s the tea.'”
The Politics Of The Pitch
Speaking of Rapinoe — girlfriend of WNBA legend Sue Bird and the No.2 person on President Donald Trump’s “most hated” list behind sports activist and social siren Jemele Hill — the veteran was resting an injury on Tuesday but the impact of her stance against 45 is still reverberating throughout these World Cup games.
Q: “Are you excited about going to the White House?”
Megan Rapinoe: “I’m not going to the fucking White House.”pic.twitter.com/OosAQMjYsh
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) June 25, 2019
With all of that going on, superior performance on the pitch is what drives the popularity of the women’s team. They are one match away from defending a title, which would make head coach Jill Ellis the first coach to win the Women’s World Cup twice
The USWNT is oozing with excellence, ready for war and holding no punches on its quest for historic greatness. More importantly, they remain a mouthpiece and lightning rod for addressing societies inequities and challenging its oppressive structures.