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Women’s Soccer Wins More Than the World Cup

They’ve given us, among other things, a victory pose for the ages.

I’m talking, of course, about the United States Women’s National Team, who won this year’s World Cup after beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday. 

Megan Rapinoe’s now signature move — chin up, arms outstretched, gloriously confident, could have been interpreted not long ago as irredeemably arrogant. Instead, the team’s outsized excellence and their unapologetic acknowledgment of same, has been a thrilling development for a sport which has produced nothing but glory by any measure.

But since we’re measuring, here’s just one to consider: In the eight World Cup competitions that have been held, the U.S. women’s team has won four. The U.S. men have won none.

“The talent pool for female soccer players in America appears bottomless,” observes Moira Donegan in the Guardian. She correctly points out that this bounty is thanks in large part to an effort to include girls and women in sports. And that came by way of legislation:

"In large part, we got them through policy, in particular the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Shepherded into law by Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii, the title IX provision of the act was a response to feminists’ push to close a loophole in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that allowed federally funded schools, colleges and universities to discriminate by sex. Title IX was intended to prohibit this kind of discrimination, and it applied to all educational programs and all aspects of a school’s operation—including sports."

Donegan walks through the history of the fight for the inclusion of women in sports, including the grotesque sausage-making that was the legislative process. “Taken as a whole, title IX’s success in creating discrimination-free educational environments for women and girls is spotty at best,” she concludes. “But the athletic non-discrimination provision has been a massive success in encouraging American girls to play sports.” And of course, earn an affordable secondary education.

So it should come as no surprise then that the women who found a home on the playing field are often interested in making sure that others are afforded the same respect. 

Rapinoe, by way of example, became one of the first professional athletes to take a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. “I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street,” she wrote in a thoughtful post for the Player’s Tribune. But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache.”

But by no means is she the only one.

All the U.S. athletes took the field knowing their next fight will be a bloody one: Mediation related to the gender discrimination lawsuit they filed against U.S. Soccer, the sport’s governing body. Men make some three times as much per game as the women and the prize pot for the women's team this year was $30 million, compared to $400 million for last year's Men's World Cup.

While Rapinoe’s pose was thrilling, it couldn’t hold a candle to the power move delivered by the fans. 

When FIFA President Gianni Infantino took the stage soon after the U.S. victory, the crowd in the stadium began to boo, then chant: "Equal pay! Equal pay!" 

I plan to keep that chant on a loop and play it when I need it.

The USWNT’s quest for equity is bigger than themselves, of course. But it was great to see the idea found support even in the cheap seats. Hopefully, the memory of the team's joyful excellence can make the sausage-making of inclusion palatable enough for voters and business leaders alike to stay the course. 

Everything is better when everyone gets a shot at playing. And we all have work to do.

On Point

Where is the mainstream media coverage of black tech success?
This is the fundamental question posed by journalist, technologist, and entrepreneur Sherrell Dorsey, who finds that the answer is pretty straightforward. “Historically, mainstream business publications have failed to contextualize Black entrepreneurship,” she writes of a world searching for stories of venture capital heroes who recognized the talents of downtrodden folks ripe for assimilation. As a result, advances in black entrepreneurship and within executive ranks, particularly in the 1970s and ‘80s, were ignored. “Back then, respected business magazines like Forbes and Fortune weren’t taking the Black community seriously, let alone their business strides,” Alfred Edmond, Jr., senior vice president at Black Enterprise, tells Dorsey. CJR

Alitalia airline apologizes for using an actor in blackface to portray President Obama
The offensive video was part of the airline’s social media campaign designed to advertise their new Rome-to-Washington route. It also included humorous portrayals of Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump and George Washington, I think. But the actor playing Obama was clearly darkened with makeup. The outcry was immediate, though the company first defended the video saying the actor wasn’t white and “makeup was applied to highlight (his) features.” While the Tunisian actor who portrayed the former president was probably surprised to learn he wasn’t white, the company eventually published a legitimate apology. “For our Company, respect for everyone is mandatory, it was never our intention to hurt anyone and we will learn from what has happened,” they tweeted. USA Today

A community of people descended from the formerly enslaved is helping to re-write history
James Monroe, the fifth president of a once young country, enslaved more than 200 people during his lifetime. Their descendants, many still named Monroe, live in a predominantly black community near the president’s former Charlottesville-area plantation — a small town in rural Virginia called Monroetown. While this extraordinary story by Audrey D.S. Burch is, in part, one of how seven generations of Monroes have grappled with their association with slavery, it is also about how the historians of Highland, the museum/home which was once the centerpiece of the enslaver’s 3,500 acre estate, are grappling with the community’s place in history. “Up until that point, we had no idea this community was right here,” said Sara Bon-Harper, Highland’s executive director. Crazy, right? They were literally right there!. New York Times

On Background

Anthropologists erased evidence of same-sex relationships in Africa
This piece from historian Marc Epprecht examines the phenomenon from a very specific perspective: the influence of Western anthropologists and academics working in sub-Saharan Africa. While there was a long history of same-sex relationships that occurred in a variety of contexts, Western academics studying African societies in the 19th and early 20th century failed to record any of it. The bias of the observers was profound, he notes, many of whom found homosexuality to be abhorrent, thought it cast colonial systems in a bad light, or decided it was the product of outside corrupting influences, in this case, Arab. Anthropologists didn’t note same-sex relationships until the 1970s, which coincided with the de-colonization across the continent. Click through for a review and the article. J-STOR

Hydroponic school gardens help kids and communities be healthier, also smarter
This story begins with the story of the Brownsville Collaborative Middle School in Bronx, N.Y., who built a built a high-tech, high-yield farm in a classroom last year. The students are now providing nutritious produce to cafeteria salad bar, but also to community members via a low cost “food box” program run from their foyer. The hydroponic garden is a result of the school’s work with Teens for Food Justice, an organization which is helping low-income schools create similar programs. But the project is delivering more than nutrition. It’s teaching kids and teachers about food deserts and justice. Brownsville’s principal says their school is awash in fast food options. “That’s why I have so many students now who are pre-diabetic already. If you don’t have any healthy food options, then how can you blame them?” he says. NPR

Why black men quit teaching
Professor Christopher Emdin has become a vocal advocate for underserved students, and a harsh critic of the well-intentioned efforts of white educators to dispense poorly designed prescriptions to help failing schools. Students who are struggling with adverse effects of poverty do not need ‘tough love.’ “Black male teachers can serve as powerful role models, but they cannot fix the problems minority students face simply by being black and male,” he writes. New York Times

Quote

“Football is the only sport where you put people together, it doesn’t matter if you are rich, or poor, or black, or white. It is one nation. This is the beauty of football.”

—Pele