True to form, many commentators who saw the U.S.-Thailand game chided the Americans for gloating. Jim Toth, a radio host for the Canada sports network TSN, tweeted: “I’m not opposed to the number of goals. I am disgusted by the celebrations after 8 though.”
Former national-team member Hope Solo, who was the U.S. goalkeeper for 16 years and won a World Cup with the team in 2015, wrote in a guest column for The Guardian: “You do want the game to be celebrated and you do want to see players having fun, but at the same time I thought some of the celebrations were a little overboard.”
The ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman also weighed in on Twitter: “0.0 problem with the score line as this [is] THE tournament BUT celebrating goals (like #9) leaves a sour taste in my mouth like many of you. Curious to see if anyone apologizes for this postgame.”
Well, no one apologized. Nor should anyone have. It isn’t the U.S. national team’s job to spare Thailand from humiliation—especially when, in this phase of the tournament, the differential between goals scored and goals allowed can determine whether a team advances. Considering that Alex Morgan tied a tournament record with five goals, and Morgan’s teammates Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle each scored the first World Cup goals of their careers, this team had every right to celebrate as it wanted.
“You spend your entire life trying to get to a World Cup,” Dwyer wrote, “and you get there and you’re supposed to tone it down and make people more comfortable?”
Female athletes are often judged differently than male athletes when it comes to expressing emotions on the field of play—whether it’s in exuberance or anger. In 1999, Brandi Chastain hit a penalty kick in the World Cup Final that not only sealed the tournament for Team USA, but led to the most iconic moment in U.S. women’s soccer history. After making the kick, Chastain infamously whipped off her jersey and celebrated in her sports bra. Some considered Chastain’s celebration to be in poor taste, even though there were countless examples of bare-chested male soccer players in the same victory pose.
The behavior police don’t just stick to soccer. If the tennis star Serena Williams is visibly upset with her performance, she isn’t perceived as being competitive, but moody. Earlier this month, the men’s player Dominic Thiem said Williams had a “bad personality,” because he was told to leave the main interview room at the French Open to accommodate Williams, who was in a rush to leave after suffering a surprising loss to Sofia Kenin in the third round.
It’s doubtful Thiem would have said the same about Roger Federer.
Last year, Williams was subjected to a mountain of criticism for calling the chair umpire Carlos Ramos a “thief” during the U.S. Open’s women’s final. Ramos made the unprecedented decision to levy a game penalty against Williams for verbal abuse. In all, he penalized Williams three times during the match.