A double standard for the top teams in women’s sports

England's Steph Houghton, right, grimaces after failing to score from the penalty spot as United States' Alex Morgan celebrates during the Women's World Cup semifinal soccer match between England and the United States, at the Stade de Lyon, outside Lyon, France, Tuesday, July 2, 2019.

The most iconic image in women's soccer is that of Brandi Chastain, on bended knees on the Rose Bowl turf, clenched fists raised at each side as she roars in celebration after netting the game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup final.

Oh, and she's clad in just shorts and a sports bra. That's a key part of what made it so iconic.

The passage of time has allowed people to see it for what it was: a snapshot of an athlete's unbridled emotion on soccer's biggest stage. Back then, though, it raised more than a few eyebrows.

Some thought it was inappropriate for a female athlete to tear off her jersey in front of the 90,185 fans in attendance and the untold millions watching on TV around the world. Others surmised that Chastain's celebration wasn't an impromptu one, and that she was fishing for some endorsement opportunities.

Chastain dealt with the criticism -- and the sexism -- and 20 years later her successors are doing the same.

The U.S. women's national team has made numerous headlines the last couple weeks, and they haven't really been focused on the squad's stellar play on the field.

There was the women's dominant 13-0 victory over Thailand, overshadowed by accusations of deliberately running up the score and of excessive celebration.

Okay, so maybe the players could have cooled it a bit after the ninth or 10th goal, but the offense doesn't justify the response. The players got caught up in the moment, which happens in sports. Afterward, some of the Americans consoled their Thai opponents and offered words of encouragement.

That should have been the end of any controversy.

Individual members of the team have faced a backlash for supposed poor sportsmanship, too. Megan Rapinoe struck an epic pose after scoring a goal against France and was called arrogant and entitled, though to be clear, much of the ire

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directed at her stems from her outspokenness on politics.

Rooting for your country to lose because of that, though? Not a good look.

Alex Morgan was slammed as disrespectful for mocking the British with a tea-sipping celebration after scoring against them in the semifinal. (I thought it was pretty funny.)

Morgan responded to the criticism by asserting that there's a double standard regarding how male and female athletes are expected to conduct themselves in competition. She's right.

Consider that running back Marshawn Lynch was fined twice by the NFL in 2015 for grabbing his crotch on a pair of touchdown runs. The reaction? Conan O'Brien brought him on his late night talk show to demonstrate how it's done. Skittles made him their spokesman.

"Beast Mode" kept on being Beast Mode, and people loved him for it.

Consider also, the St. Louis Blues. After they won the Stanley Cup last month, microphones picked up players dropping nearly a dozen F-bombs on live TV as they celebrated on the ice with the Cup. NBC shut those mics off, but that didn't stop St. Louis player Ryan O'Reilly from dropping another expletive in a 1-on-1 interview.

Just boys being boys. I wasn't personally bothered by any of this, but imagine female athletes engaging in this kind of public behavior. The pearl clutching would be off the charts. So yes, there is a double standard.

But wait! Could all of this be seen as a compliment to women? That we expect more from them because that's the standard they have established?

No. Just no.

Men: Be better. U.S. women's soccer: Go win another World Cup and don't apologize for any of it.


Mike Hautamaki can be reached at hauts81@hotmail.com.


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