Women’s soccer is funny sometimes. There are funny things that happen in and around women’s soccer (or women’s sport in general) that are odd when you compare them to men’s sports.
Women are often scrutinized for the things they chose to do on a level that is comical at best and deeply unfair at worst. Megan Rapinoe swears and we must think of the children, but if LeBron James then he’s just being passionate. Alex Morgan sips tea after scoring it is arrogant, but look at any NFL game and you will see nut grabbing and planned celebrations nearly every touchdown or sack.
Things like Rapinoe and Morgan celebrating publicly and proudly are harmless. Even if we must think of the children, and we so often are told we must in women’s sports, at the end of the day these players have no more a duty to think of the children as Charles Barkley did in 1993. If little Timmy or Susie hears Rapinoe drop an F-Bomb or see’s Morgan sipping some tea, they will be fine. I promise you a life of crime does not lay ahead for anyone seeing what Rapinoe and Morgan have done.
It is a problem though when a women’s soccer player does a gross thing. Because we’re so often called on to defend the silly or the meaningless or to think of the children when they do step over the line we don’t always want to point out the gross thing they have done. The same people who would, rightly, defend Morgan’s celebration or Rapinoe swearing may not know how to react. The problem is in the case of the gross things, they shouldn’t defend the players even if it feels like the Rapinoe and the Morgan thing all over again.
And that brings us to Christen Press and Rose Lavelle.
Christen Press promoted Barstools brand during the parade in New York City during her Instagram takeover just days after they won it all sends people to the Barstool social media. People who had either never heard of the company or who wouldn’t have followed them before did. It grew their brand.
Rose Lavelle went on their Pardon My Take podcast to “talk about the World Cup, how soccer works, Cincinnati and scoring mad goals” according to Barstool. People who were searching for Lavelle or the USWNT or anything to do with the World Cup may have found and tuned in. They may go back for more episodes.
The debate about the differences in impact of taking over an Instagram for an hour and being on an episode of a podcast is not one I am interested in having. If you want to say taking over an Instagram is worse, sure, go for it. If you want to say being on a podcast and interacting directly with people who work for the site is worse, fine by me. In the end both are bad. Because Barstool Sports is terrible. And don’t take my word for how bad Barstool Sports is, check out Stop Enabling Barstool’s Shit and Inside Barstool Sports’ Culture of Online Hate: ‘They Treat Sexual Harassment and Cyberbullying as a Game’ if you want a taste of why they are terrible.
We put more pressure on the USWNT to get things right more than most other female athletes and most female athletes have pressure on them to get things right more than most male athletes. We expect more from them in terms of being role models and giving the perfect quote, the perfect sound bite, the perfect performance in their public lives. It’s not fair to them. It is 100% not fair at all.But they also shouldn’t get passes when they do gross stuff because some men do it too.
Press and Lavelle working with Barstool Sports is very bad, horrible, no good. There is no way to spin it in a way that it becomes somehow neutral, let alone positive. I want to be clear that we don’t fully know if it was Christen Press or her team or Rose Lavelle or hers that reached out to Barstool or if Barstool reached out to them. USWNT Press Officer On Christen Press’s Barstool Sports Partnership: “Something Seems Amiss!” shows how unclear it all is. But at the end of the day even if the players knew nothing about the site they were connection themselves with, their names are now linked when someone Googles their name. At the end of the day, team or player, the player’s name is the one that is out there.
Women and women of color have a lot of pressure put on them that isn’t fair. But I do not think it is unreasonable to expect them to not work with and promote sites that actively harm and harass others while wrapping what they do is a goof and just for fun. I get the urge from their fans to defend them the way they often have to defend female athletes just being themselves. But working with companies that don’t gleefully harass women isn’t unfair pressure, it is basic respect.
I’m disappointed in Press and Lavelle as someone who supports the USWNT and who believes in the calls for equal pay and equality the team has been pushing for years at this point. I don’t expect everyone on the team to be Rapinoe or Ali Krieger when it comes to politics but I do expect more than endorsement of sites like Barstool Sports.
I really do hope they figure out what they did sucks, honestly tell us they are sorry and they do things that suck less in the future.