With No Argument on Substance, Critics Take Aim at U.S.’s Style

A few days later, Ellis’s decision to rotate nearly her entire side against Chile was interpreted as an act rooted in presumption, an impression cemented when defender Ali Krieger declared afterward that the United States had not only the best team in the world, but the second-best, too.

The knockout stages brought yet more focus on how the players chose to celebrate. Piers Morgan’s objections to Megan Rapinoe’s striking a pose after scoring against France can probably be written off as a transparent attempt to ingratiate himself with President Trump. The response to Morgan’s tea-sipping celebration against England might easily be seen as confected outrage, that most valuable of currencies in the modern news media climate.

In between those two incidents, though, the English news media took exception to the news that the United States had scouted out the hotel England was using before the semifinal as a possible base for the final: the sort of forward-planning that pretty much every team in the world would undertake, but interpreted as yet more proof of the unthinking arrogance of the U.S. (Such was the paranoia, at that point, that a further minor storm brewed when it was briefly thought that the Americans had sent someone to spy on an England training session; it turned out — thankfully, for the sake of moral decency — that it was just a confused passer-by).

Individually, all of these incidents fall somewhere on the border between trivial and laughable. Taken together, though, they indicate a pattern; their frequency suggests a trend toward the policing of the behavior — and particularly the joy — of the American players. There is no question that this United States team is revered for its efficacy, its talent, its history; nobody would deny its claim to be the best in the world. It does not, though, seem to be especially well-liked.

Morgan, when asked to explain her celebration against England, offered a compelling explanation for why that might be: that women, unlike men, are expected to restrain themselves in celebration, in particular, to maintain a standard foisted upon them by others. “There is some sort of double standard for females in sports,” she said. They are encouraged “to feel like we have to be humble in our successes; we have to celebrate, but not too much; we have to do something, but in a limited fashion.” Such self-containment, she said, is not asked of men.

She is doubtless right to suggest that women’s behavior is monitored far more than men’s, but it is worth noting that it is only American women who have been criticized for going too far in their moments of euphoria in this tournament. Nobody has suggested White or Sam Kerr or Vivianne Miedema might like to tone it down. Kerr was broadly praised, indeed, for her bluntness in telling off her critics after Australia defeated Brazil in the group stage. That indicates that nationality, as well as gender, is a relevant factor in the censure.