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Jane McManus: It's A Start

The US Women’s National soccer team has proven to be the best in the world after winning the World Cup, again.

The women who play this game have proven a lot more along the way.

Yes they were loud, they celebrated, Alex Morgan even had a choreographed sip of tea after she scored in the semifinal win over England. Brash? Arrogant? Opponents said this like they were bad things.

England coach Phil Neville used the word “ruthless” to describe them in the lead up to the semifinal game, and it almost sounded a bit wistful, as though his Lionesses could have used a dash more ruthlessness themselves.

Nike could print up 10,000 Ruthless US soccer jerseys right now and I wager they’d sell out immediately.

In some ways, those are the qualities that America is known for internationally. We are bold and extroverted. We expect people to understand us and, if they don’t, we say it again only louder. We think sports are the key to character development – ask any AYSO coach. We paint our faces and fill stadiums for the privilege of screaming in victory.

So sip your tea, Alex.

These women don’t need to be grateful for the chance to play their sport on the international stage. They don’t need to demure after backing up their World Cup championship with another World Cup title. We wouldn’t expect that from the German men’s soccer team, from the Golden State Warriors, or even the Yankees back when the Yankees won world titles. So why do we expect it from Megan RaPEENoe and associates?

Greatness is celebrated in male athletes, but we expect gratitude from the women who play.

This is the underlying expectation that brings disproval from some corners and allows the travesty of unequal compensation for this incredible team.

After they won, chants of “Equal Pay” filled the stadium as FIFA officials strolled onto the field. If those men really appreciated this game, they would promote it, market it, and schedule it as the main event it is.  Even the banner on the podium, “Dare to Shine,” is a patronizing piece of nonsense. Pretty sure the women who trained for years to make that stage don’t need anyone’s permission to QUOTE shine, whatever that means.

Lindsay Gibbs wrote a piece on how this team has been marketed to inspire women and girls, but still has to fight for every dollar they earn. They are poorly compensated and unwitting mascots for your inspiration theater, and companies need to step up to the plate and create the sponsorships that will help lessen the inequity. Budweiser announced this weekend that it will sponsor the national Women’s Soccer League, where many on the national team play during the long stretches between world cups.

It’s a start.

Nike set records with jersey sales, Fox with soccer ratings. There is such clear interest in this team that there is no serious debate, only grousing from detractors.

Pay them, cheer them, fill a stadium and bask in what they can do, what it means for Title IX and American determination.

There are no better representatives for the United States on the world stage.

Jane McManus is director of the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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