By Laura Pappano
NM soccer player Elizabeth Lambert’s hair yanking, punching, and nasty behavior have gone viral. She’s being labeled the “dirtiest player” in women’s soccer and – depending on who’s writing or talking – all of women’s sports.
What makes Lambert’s behavior so outrageous (aside from being captured on video) is that girls are supposed to play nice.
The image of female athletes as more than skilled players – as good, wholesome people – is a centerpiece of women’s sports and a staple of marketing, promotion, and ticket-selling, particularly in basketball and soccer.
This has been both a benefit and a limitation that has helped shape women’s sports as “gentler” fare.
Of course, Lambert is not the first athlete to get in trouble for hair pulling. Last month, Oakland Raider’s defensive tackle Richard Seymour was reportedly fined $7,500 for pulling Broncos tackle Ryan Clady’s hair (also caught on tape). In August, Semi Tadulala, a Fijian rugby player, faced a one match suspension after pulling the ponytail of Eorl Crabtree during play between the Bradford Bulls and Hudderfield Giants.
Hairpulling, like grabbing opponents’ privates in the football pile-up or purposely seeking to injure another player, is blatant dirty play. Unfortunately, nasty play is more common than you’d think, though less so among female athletes.