From an early age, we are taught the importance of respect. Most children, one hopes, are taught to respect their parents, teachers, and elders. They’re also taught to respect traditions, be they familial or cultural. They are taught to respect people’s feelings and rights, even the country’s flag and leaders. Have respect for truth and people’s opinions, regardless of race or sex. As life progresses, we develop great respect for people we consider representatives of moral decency; on the other hand, we lose respect for those we discover to be dishonest or obnoxious.
Speaking of obnoxious….
On Tuesday, the U.S. women’s soccer team tried (and failed) to defend itself against some richly deserved criticism. As you probably know by now, the Americans trashed Thailand 13-0. This is not the reason they were criticized, obviously. After all, soccer is all about outscoring your opponent. The Americans were slammed on social media for the manner in which they celebrated each goal. This was Thailand’s only second time in a major competition, having lost 4-0 to Norway and 4-0 to Germany in 2015, neither of whom piled on. In many ways, the Thai ladies were David; the Americans, Goliath.
The U.S., favorites to win this year’s World Cup absolutely thrashed the Thai team in Reims, France. They were seen reacting to every goal scored in the most overly dramatic ways imaginable, celebrating each one as if it was a cup final winner. While their Thai counterparts were left in tears, the Americans rejoiced in the most vulgar way possible. Against a lowly opponent, it was the heaviest defeat in World Cup history.
As a huge soccer fan, I have participated in and watched the sport for almost a quarter of a century. Soccer is supposed to be a game of honor, a game of humility. When you are fortunate enough to earn a win, you need to be humble in victory, respecting your competitor and their effort. Just like a loser must be gracious in defeat, a winner must also be humble in victory.
It all comes back to respect. Sport revolves around the concept of respect. Calls to respect this or that are increasingly part of public life, especially in the United States: environmentalists urge us to respect nature, opponents of abortion and capital punishment insist on respect for human life. The list goes on — respect for sexual orientation, age, and religious beliefs. The ubiquity and significance of respect in everyday life largely explains why so many, from pseudo-intellectuals to supreme philosophers, have been interested in the concept. Everyday discourse and practices insist that respect is personally, socially, politically, and morally important. On the topic of discourse, fans, as well as commentators, took to social media to voice their disapproval. Clare Rustad and Kaylyn Kyle, two retired soccer pros, slammed the team on Canadian sports channel TSN. Rustad had this to say: “I just think they could have won with some humility and grace, and they just couldn’t manage to do that. Celebrating goals later in the game like this is just completely unnecessary. What is this?”
Clearly in agreement with her former teammate, Kyle chipped in by adding: “They’re the No. 1 team in the world and for me, I’m disgusted, honestly.”
The irony here is that a number of the Americans are self-confessed feminists, regularly pleading with the masses to respect the rights of ladies around the world. Megan Rapinoe, possibly the most outspoken team member, even refused to sing the National Anthem on Tuesday.
The player stood silent and somber looking as her teammates sang along to “The Spangled Banner” in the Auguste-Delaune Stadium.
Why? By refusing to sing the anthem, she was acknowledging the pain felt by the LGBT community, something she says President Trump repeatedly fails to do.
The 33-year-old midfielder went on to score a goal in the game and, like the rest of her teammates, celebrate inappropriately. This is a woman that virtue signaled and vice signaled in the space of an hour.
The former occurred when she refused to sing the anthem. The latter occurred when she participated in overly provocative celebrations, jumping around like a possessed kangaroo.
The U.S. women’s soccer team happens to the best in the world, but the behavior on show lacked the class that we associate with top tier professionals. Their actions presented the United States in the worst possible light — bullies, cruel and ruthless. I have never seen soccer stars behave in such a mindlessly ignorant manner.
The irony here is that a number of these women have criticized Trump for being cold and heartless. What is it that they say about people in glasshouses?
The hypocrisy is absolutely astonishing. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, “people are respectable only as they respect.”