It’s being hailed as a glass ceiling being shattered. EA Sports has announced that Alex Morgan, beloved star of the World Cup champion U.S. soccer team, will join international superstar Lionel Messi on the cover of the upcoming release of the FIFA 16 video game. A success? Nope. Sounds like another pretty girl being used to sell a product.
This will be the first time a woman has graced the cover of a FIFA video game. I guess we’re supposed to feel like this is some sort of giant leap for chick-kind, but I’m not feeling it.
I’m not feeling it because Alex Morgan is a champion who shouldn’t have to share the cover with anyone — not even Lionel Messi. It’s like EA Sports and FIFA want to sell to Alex Morgan’s legions of little girl fans, but not so much that they would dare affront the bros that are their customer base. I like to believe soccer fans have the ability to recognize talent regardless of whether it’s wearing a sports bra, but maybe that’s just a fantasy.
I’m not feeling it because Australian player Stephanie Catley will be featured on the cover of the version sold in Australia, and Canadian player Christine Sinclair will be featured on Canadian games. FIFA wants to promote “chicks playing soccer” as an added revenue stream, not recognize the greatest players in the game today and elevate their profiles. These are two very different goals with very different outcomes for the female players. Promoting “chicks playing soccer” makes FIFA money. Promoting soccer super-talent Alex Morgan gives her the power and the earning potential outside of FIFA.
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There’s a big difference between the two.
I’m not feeling it because FIFA, with its very long, very illustrious lists of dubious dealings, sees fit to pay women’s teams that win a fraction of what men’s teams get paid to lose. FIFA should do more than add a pretty picture to its video game jackets — it needs to close the FIFA pay gap. Today.
I’m not feeling it because EA Sports and FIFA are reinforcing the idea that for women, athletic performance isn’t quite enough. Lionel Messi isn’t much of a looker, but he plays soccer like he made some deal with the devil. But for our women athletes, like Alex Morgan in full makeup while playing soccer on the cover of the video game, they have to be the total package. They need shiny hair and perfect teeth and to show their beautiful bodies to get even a fraction of the attention men get just for winning.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Serena Williams about the role appearances play in women’s sports.
Listen, I know I’m a party pooper, and there is probably some sort of greater benefit for women’s soccer to have its stars featured on a video game. But companies like FIFA and EA Sports can and should do more than just give women athletes some afterthought nod and a picture on a box.