The argument over depiction often splits along generational lines, between pioneers who fought against being objectified and younger athletes who have much more control over how they’re portrayed.
“I have very mixed feelings,” Kane said. “The last thing I want to do is denigrate women’s agency and choices. They get to decide that.”
Yet, Kane added, “When you emphasize your body, not as an instrument of athletic excellence and strength and power, but as an object of sexual desire in a passive or traditional pose, it’s not clear to me how that engenders respect for who you are as an elite athlete.”
Chastain, a coach at the college, high school and youth level, is forever being asked about her celebration and her sports bra. She says she does not feel burdened. It gives her a chance to talk about soccer, her passion. The bra she wore in 1999 is framed in her home office. She said she was offered $500,000 for it shortly after that World Cup, but turned it down.
“I didn’t want people to misinterpret the moment,” she said.
She has been able to revel in the celebration while also maintaining a knowing, sly distance and deftly deflecting awkward moments.
Once she appeared in a Nike commercial, wearing her national team uniform while playing foosball with the N.B.A. star Kevin Garnett. After Chastain scored a goal in the table soccer game, a long silence prevailed. “What’s up with the shirt?” Garnett finally asked. Chastain did not budge.
About three months ago, she said, she was on a flight when confusion over ticketing occurred. A flight attendant asked if there was a Brandi Chastain aboard. Then, Chastain said, the attendant asked, to widespread laughter, “Are you taking your shirt off?”
“Not today,” she replied.