Last week, members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team received criticism because they celebrated after scoring against Thailand in a blowout game that ended 13-0. Some argued that it was disrespectful to gloat when they were already clearly in the lead, but others saw the pushback for what it was: a clear example of the double-standard that women athletes face.
"If anyone wants to come at our team for not doing the right thing, not playing the right way, not being the right ambassador for the sport, they can come at us," Megan Rapinoe, captain of the U.S. WNT told ESPN. "I think our only crime was an explosion of joy last night."
It should go without saying that this criticism is unwarranted, and all athletes should be able to celebrate their accomplishments however they choose, on and off the field. "These are goals we have dreamt of our entire life," Alex Morgan, another USWNT player told ESPN. For another example of the sort of "explosion of joy" that Rapinoe is referring to, look no further than Australian striker Samantha Kerr, whose famous post-goal backflips went viral a few years ago.
As the story goes, when Kerr was a 9-year-old living in Perth, Australia, she taught herself how to do a roundoff backflip, and it became her signature celebratory move. "It is kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing," she said in a FIFA interview. "When it is a big match, or a big goal, it seems to happen. People always ask me when I’m going to do it and I never know. It is just pure emotion."
And honestly, these backflips are just as impressive as the goals that precede them:
In addition to her acrobatic prowess, Kerr, who also plays for the Chicago Red Stars in addition to the Australian Matildas, is known for her skilled scoring. In 2017, she set the NWSL world record for the most goals scored in a game.
As a striker, Kerr's position is responsible for offence and most of the shooting. Kerr's coaches say that her ability to anticipate her openings in the field and score are what have made her so successful. "I don’t think there’s any other player in the world right now who’s as sophisticated as she is with her movement off the ball," Rory Dames, her club coach at the Chicago Red Stars, told the New York Times.
Kerr's star power transcends her work on the field. She recently signed an endorsement deal with Nike, which made her the highest-paid women's soccer player in Australia, according to ESPN. Unfortunately, not all of the attention she's received has been positive. On Friday, after the Matildas beat Brazil 3-2, Kerr told reporters, "There were a lot of critics talking about us, but we're back, so suck on that one." Then, fans said that it was unfair of her to say she has any "critics," given how beloved she is. Kerr took to Twitter, and shared a message she received from someone who used a homophobic slur, saying, "For people getting upset about there being 'no' haters."
This sort of whiplash illustrates how women athletes are penalised any time they celebrate, or are viewed as "hysterical" if they express any kind of negative emotion. But backflips or clap-backs, Kerr is proof that women athletes are not having any of this double-standard. You can catch her tomorrow, as the Australian Women's National Football Team takes on Jamaica at the FIFA Women's World Cup.