If you turned away from the game for a few seconds during Tuesday night’s glorious 2–0 United States semifinal victory over Germany at the Women’s World Cup, then you may have missed one of the oddest moments of the tournament so far.
With a 1–0 U.S. lead in the 79th minute, the FIFA telecast decided to hold the screen on an 11-second slow-motion replay of star U.S. goalkeeper (and legendary jerk) Hope Solo hydrating and cooling herself with the contents of a water bottle. The apparently necessary slow-motion view, though, made the shot look gratuitously, um, suggestive.
A colleague at Slate wondered if noted women’s rights advocate and disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter was in the control room directing the game, while I couldn’t help but be reminded of this 1990s Super Bowl commercial starring Cindy Crawford drinking a Pepsi. Reddit has flagged that some enterprising YouTube user slowed the clip down even further to make it 30 seconds of awkward and ridiculous-looking refreshment, which just emphasizes the absurdity of the FIFA clip.
While it’s fun to laugh off something like this, the apparent focus on a player’s sexuality by an official broadcast—even one subtle enough to be dismissed as a possible mistake—is a disappointing blip in what has otherwise been fine coverage of an exciting, world-class sporting event.
Last year’s World Cup tournament provided a similar opportunity for people to objectify the athletes in that competition, but I can’t recall a telecast lingering on a male player in such a suggestive manner. Also, as Slate’s Amanda Hess pointed out at the time, there’s an ugly history of female athletes being appreciated in the media and by the public for their looks and not their skills that makes the objectification of male players far less troubling, if troubling at all. FIFA would be wise to double-check that Blatter is not in the control booth for Sunday’s final.