To everyone who has sent me a text, tweet, message, etc about me swearing at the ref on Saturday- thank you for providing the catalyst to shed light on an issue I don't think we talk about enough.
On Saturday, we were playing the Portland Thorns in the game of the week on Lifetime TV. That means more cameras, more close ups, and a true "live look" at the NWSL and professional female athletes.
In the 85th minute or so, we were down 1-0 and I took a shot that I thought was deflected out for a corner. It was called a goal kick.
Blinded by rage, upset that we were losing the game, I looked at the referee and said, "ARE YOU F***** INSANE?" and was caught red handed on a zoomed-in camera.
First things first: I WAS WRONG. But the reason I'm disappointed I swore is that it could have resulted in a card and it distracted me from transitioning onto the next play. Both of these things could have significantly impacted the team in a negative way. So let me be clear, I fully understand and believe that swearing at the referee is selfish and not something anyone should do, and it’s disrespectful to a referee who is doing his or her best to officiate fairly.
That being said, I can’t help but think that one of the reasons I’ve been contacted so many times about the closeup of me swearing is because historically in our society, it's not as commonplace for women to curse as frequently or as venomously as men. Let’s face it, in the premier league, hardly a match goes by on NBC sports without a closeup of a player swearing at a referee or an opponent or at themselves. In the instances I’ve witnessed, almost all of the time the act of swearing is either ignored, or made out to be funny by an announcer who says “(So and so) really not happy about the call/ tackle there” in a humorous undertone.
When common or repeated actions take place, it’s not newsworthy, so nobody really thinks twice about it. This is the current case with swearing in men’s sports, but right now, I don’t think it’s the same in women’s. Here's why:
1) I think there’s a stigma that cursing can be perceived as “unladylike” for lack of a better word, and therefore is an act that historically has been received as more vulgar for a woman than a man.
2) The history in disparity of coverage between men’s and women’s sports is gargantuan, and only in the recent decade has women’s sports started to truly gain traction and increase coverage on cable television. I think that when you combine these two principles, the result is simply that our society is not used to seeing a woman, in uniform, with a close up camera on her, swearing in a fit of competitive rage. When something like this that is “controversial” and uncommon to an audience is recorded, it drops into that aforementioned "newsworthy" bucket, which is why my Instagram and twitter notifications were blowing up after the game with replies like "@chicagoredstars @smccaffrey9 said a bad word.”
The majority of these replies were grounded by the principle that I am in the wrong because swearing sets a bad example to our younger audience. I DO NOT DISAGREE WITH THIS. I do not think it's a great thing if a young athlete sees me saying the f-word. But- I also don’t think its necessarily a bad thing.
I think its good for young girls to see firsthand examples of the most fierce, raw, and in this case, graphic, form of competitive emotion in female athletes. I want them to get used to seeing our veins popping through our necks, yelling in rage when something doesn’t go our way. I want them to see our hard tackles, and the stare downs and scuffles that may come after it. It’s important for young athletes to see how much every play matters to us, and how our competitive fire is so strong that there are times where we literally blackout for a second and do things we may not be proud of. Being respectful is always the priority, but there are times when female athletes do not look "pretty" or "graceful" on the field. We are scrapping and fighting for every single play out there because that's what athletes do.
So getting back to the quote of the hour: “Are you f***** insane?” I think the answer is exactly the opposite. I’m the one who’s insane, not the referee. To a degree, so was every player on the field that day. We’re all so psychotically competitive and want to win so bad that, when things don’t go our way, we sometimes lose our shit. And you know what? I think that a child having to watch a “bad example” of a woman swearing or shoving or getting in someone’s face is a small price to pay if it helps them understand that the days of men competing with more fire and rage than women are long gone.
My response to everyone who has sent me the GIF saying "@smccaffrey is angry/ said a bad word" is this: stop fueling the stereotype that it is taboo for passion to occasionally trump sportsmanship in women’s sports. Instead, get excited about the fact that the NWSL and lifetime TV is helping to normalize the fact that “playing like a girl” can get rough and ugly- and that’s f***** awesome.