By Stephanie Steiner

March 2, 2016

#NoCleavageInSoccer is a hashtag I started tweeting aggressively last year when the television correspondent assigned to one of our away matches was a bit (cough!) underdressed. Q13, get your shirt together. I felt then, as I do now, that such a display was disrespectful to players and fans of the sport, many of whom are women and girls.  The value they bring to soccer is not their cleavage, and in my opinion, such a display doesn’t send a message of equality, respect, or unity – and I was vocal about it.

Last night, the Alliance Council had the opportunity to bring our concerns about the Sounders FC’s women’s jerseys to the front office (not the first time, and there have been complaints about them for years).  I followed up this morning with the letter (below) and the images of our women’s jersey compared to NYFC’s women’s jersey.

From: Stephanie S
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2016 10:07 AM
To: Taylor Graham
Subject: Women’s Jersey Feedback

The criticism is that the neckline is ridiculous and objectifies women – entirely unnecessary when we’re in a conversation about jerseys. Please keep cleavage out of soccer – soccer is for girls too, and their worth is not their cleavage. We don’t believe this jersey is an example of the equality direction in which Sounders FC has been heading.

This jersey came from the Club – if adidas ™ can produce one with a normal neckline for NYFC then they can produce one with a normal neckline for us: [photo inserts]

Thank you for being willing to forward this on.

My letter was indeed forwarded, and in less than an hour, I had already had a reply: Of all of the other teams that offer a women’s jersey, NYCFC is currently* the only team that does not have our current neckline or last year’s scoop neck.  Their women’s neckline pictured is only available in the kit pictured [higher neckline].  These concerns will be addressed with adidas™.  

*a few weeks ago, a Vancouver Whitecaps women’s jersey was seen in social media with a high neckline like that of NYFC, but at the time I wrote my letter, I was not able to find it on MLSstore.com, nor were the contacts in the Front Office able to find it.  It doesn’t look like any other clubs were offered the higher necklines – and we don’t know why.

I want to thank Sounders FC for taking our concerns seriously and for being willing to address them with adidas™.  This matters to us, and I’m both happy and proud that it matters to our Front Office representatives and our merchandising team.

I’m not a small girl.  I’m not young. I’m not “maturing.” I have anatomy I’m proud of at times and other times, I feel preyed upon. But at my age, I’ve got the benefit of time and wisdom, and both good and frightening experiences behind me.  One of those was just Monday morning.  Yes, really – even at my age, even in my career path, objectification and demeaning behavior creeps into professional environments.  Let’s keep that out of soccer, and let’s keep that away from our girls as long as we can – at least until they’ve got the personal skills and strength to deal with it.  If a woman wants to show off “her girls,” great – there are plenty of tee shirts to choose from. There is only one jersey – let’s keep it as authentic as possible. The Club has never released a jersey for the team with a plunge neckline, cap sleeves, and a short midriff. Men’s jerseys in the proshop aren’t relegated to these options. We already know “women’s cut” jerseys are poor sellers, because the adidas representative told us so – women reject these.

Being inclusive is important. Standing up for equality matters.  Following through with integrity is our responsibility.  We can’t get to everything that we’d like to accomplish on the Alliance Council; we don’t even come close.  But today was a good day.  I know jerseys are designed years in advance – I hope changes can be made that impact the 2017 jersey for women and every jersey thereafter. Below are only a few of the endless reasons why.