From Debra Rienstra
Remember this photo? The primal energy, the explosive joy—the controversy? Yeah, this photo was taken seconds after Brandi Chastain slotted a sweet penalty kick, winning the 1999 Women’s World Cup for the U.S. against China, 5-4.
It was a moment that became, as sportscasters are so fond of saying, “iconic.” For many reasons. Maybe you watched with the rest of the nation, as our family did, while the U.S. women’s soccer team dominated the international scene in the 1990s. The compelling novelty of these elite women athletes—strong, skilled, poised, and beautiful—captivated even the soccer-indifferent American public. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, and their teammates seemed unspoiled by the corruption plaguing their male colleagues in more lucrative industry sports. They were genuine role models, and they played exciting soccer.
So versions of that photo appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Time, and Newsweek because winning the 1999 Women’s World Cup clinched the dominance of these players internationally and the new prominence of their sport in the U.S. Chastain’s post-goal celebration, however, also raised issues about women athletes and the fine line between empowerment and exploitation.