Amy Roberts: What’s patriotic about rooting against the US women?
You don’t write a column called Red Card Roberts because your favorite sport is golf.
I love soccer — watching it, playing it, coaching it — being part of the sport in any way I can.
I’m not sure why or when or how I got hooked. At some point I must have just realized that when half the planet is invested in one thing, it must be a pretty special thing. There’s no cultural practice more universal than soccer. It’s played by people in every country, every race and every religion. More people understand soccer than any single language, and it has more followers than any one faith. And every four years, billions of people all over the world act in unison by watching the World Cup final.
Maybe that’s why I love the game, for its ability to unify. Though apparently even that quality is questionable in this country.
Sunday’s championship match between the USA and the Netherlands should have been something every American could root for. But time and time again, long before a coin was flipped in the air, the American women’s team was attacked, oftentimes by their fellow Americans. They were called arrogant and criticized for the way they celebrated — from being “too exuberant” when they annihilated Thailand to pretending to sip tea when scoring against the English. They were called “ungrateful” for having the audacity to demand equal pay for a job they consistently do better than the American men’s team. They were chided for speaking up and told they were not acting like role models. I saw a handful of comments that suggested they shouldn’t embarrass our country on the world stage, and I had to wonder — shouldn’t we at least hold our president to this same standard? Then, when captain Megan Rapinoe said she would not visit the White House if invited, they were called unpatriotic. People actively rooted against the U.S. team, ironically in the name of their own professed patriotism.
I read a number of articles and comments that suggested you cannot possibly be a patriot if you don’t support the president. Which begs the question — what the hell were those people doing between 2008 and 2016? The jeers got louder when Rapinoe stood for the national anthem, but kept her hands clasped behind her back to protest the policies of the current administration. For this she was called “anti-American,” “disgraceful,” and a number of other insults not suitable for print.
Which begs another question — doesn’t anyone remember fourth-grade history? Protests are as American as it gets. The American Revolution was preceded by a bunch of tea being dumped in the Boston Harbor. Americans have a constitutional right to peacefully protest, regardless of what they do for a living. Protests have long resulted in progress, from better working conditions, to the right to vote, to the civil rights movement, to millions of women donning pink cat hats the day after Trump’s inauguration in 2017. You can be proud to be an American, and play for your country, without being proud of the current national policy on causes that matter to you.
Truthfully though, I don’t think any of the reasons stated in the criticism and the insults are the real reason some people have so much vitriol for this team. There are countless world competitions where U.S. athletes have stood stoic during the national anthem. You’ll find no shortage of excessive celebration in other games. Many athletes declined an invite to the White House, well before it was occupied by Trump.
Those are convenient and timely excuses, but they aren’t accurate. The real reason some people don’t like this team is because strong women worry them. And a group of strong women acting in unison terrify them. Every woman on that team has accomplished her achievements on her own. They don’t tolerate being dismissed or belittled, and they call it out. They are authentically themselves and won’t apologize if someone finds that offensive.
All of this is relatively new. Our society is accustomed to being able to silence women with criticism. Bullying tactics or shame or simply suggesting a woman “act more ladylike” have historically worked to alter behavior. And this team has defiantly and repeatedly said, “No.” They don’t give a damn about being liked by people they don’t care for. That’s an uncomfortable level of self-confidence for a lot of people. And so, hatred and name calling and hoping for failure are the default. It’s misogyny poorly disguised as patriotism.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis.
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Jay Meehan writes in remembrance of his favorite camping partner.