Athlete Gender Differences and Public Reaction

Earlier this week, there was quite a negative reaction against FIFA because of an article their site that described Alex Morgan as “easy on the eye” as part of the lead paragraph.


Everyone seemed to agree that this was inappropriate and highlighted that female athletes aren’t treated the same way as male athletes. No arguments here. Now, last night we had the incredibly unfortunate, last-minute own goal by Laura Bassett that gave Japan the win in the Women’s World Cup Semifinals. This was a top athlete on the biggest stage making a huge mistake that resulted in a devastating loss. So what was the reaction like? As you can see from the collection of tweets on this ESPNW article, the response was overwhelming supportive and positive. If you search Twitter yourself, you’ll see that 95% of the public reaction falls in line the same way. (Side Note: I even found a tweet from a UK travel company offering her a complimentary vacation.)

So my question to you is this. What would the reaction to this have been if it took place in the Men’s World Cup? Unfortunately, there isn’t a comparable goal in the Twitter-era to compare this to, but if we look back to the 2013 college football season, we had vile filth and death threats hurled at Alabama kicker Cade Foster for missing three field goals in a loss to Auburn.

Now I am not trying to use the Bassett reaction to somehow say that the FIFA article was okay – it definitely wasn’t. My point is that the differences between the way the media treat male vs. female athletes is complicated.

Would female athletes have preferred a vile, hostile reaction to Bassett’s own goal? I would think not, but maybe some people disagree.

Can we keep this type of supportive reaction in mind the next time a 20 year old college athlete makes a mistake? I hope so, but I have my doubts.

We need to treat female athletes with the same level of professionalism and respect as male athletes, but maybe there are a few facets from the women’s side we need to flip back over the fence too.