The England women's team have just completed the most successful of the country's World Cup campaigns since 1966. And now, at last, they can go back to being "mothers, partners and daughters", according to the official England team Twitter.
Tweeting as the team returned to London after a campaign that saw them reach the semi-finals, the account seemed happy to suggest both that members of the team had stopped being daughters during their time in the campaign — and that they'd somehow stopped being footballers after the competition was over.
Reaction to the tweet was immediate and intense, with the replies flooded with people saying the tweet was "an own goal", along with much less printable responses.
The account is verified, has almost 1.2 million followers and seems to be run by the FA. It has spent much of the campaign celebrating a team that has managed to make huge gains for women's football — before single-handledly undoing much of them with one tweet.
The FA said that the tweet had been taken out of context: "The full story was a wider homecoming feature attempting to reflect the many personal stories within the playing squad as has been told throughout the course of the tournament.
"However, we understand that an element of the story appears to have been taken out of context and the opening paragraph was subsequently revised to reflect that fact."
@england ??????? Do male players return to be fathers and husbands? Own goal here!— Shaun@Dr.T (@DoctorT1992) July 6, 2015
.@england They're still footballers too. Why don't you go back to being a sperm?— fleetstreetfox (@fleetstreetfox) July 6, 2015
@england well they are hardly returning to the pay and benefits that male players seem to enjoy.— Caryn Cox (@caryncoxphealth) July 6, 2015
You forgot to mention the pile of ironing that's waiting for them. https://t.co/cgNNQByEAp— Peter Smith (@Redpeter99) July 6, 2015
I don’t need femimsms YES IT IS TRUE FEMALE ATHLETES TRANSFORM BACK INTO WIVES AND WOMBS IMMEDIATELY AFTER SPORTS END pic.twitter.com/ui8uMrrpia— WomanAgainstFeminism (@NoToFeminism) July 6, 2015
Other users were apparently untroubled by the sexism, arguing that the account had either got its grammar wrong or shouldn't be celebrating England's most successful international team in over five decades.
@england its heroines. Poor mistake— ricardo savva (@ricardosavva) July 6, 2015
@england at the risk of sounding disrespectful, no other country would could a third placed team heroes.— Andrew Flynn (@andrewflynn_) July 6, 2015
Catherine Mayer, co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, said: "Twitter has treated the FA’s Tweet about the Lionesses with the amused contempt it deserved, very much as Twitter responded to Tim Hunt’s comments about women in laboratories by creating the hilarious hashtag #distractinglysexy. And just as happened when Twitter mocked Hunt, there are already efforts to mischaracterise the witty, proportionate reactions to the FA’s silly tweet as 'mob rule'."
However, some sought to play down the row. Jacqui Oatley, the broadcaster who anchored coverage of the Women’s World Cup for the BBC, told The Independent: “I’m a little bit surprised that it’s become such a big story. It was well-intentioned but clearly ill-judged because so many people have been offended by it, although I’m not one of them. It was deleted, James Callow has apologised, time to move on.”
The tweet was deleted about 45 minutes after it was posted. The account continued to post extra updates without explaining the tweet or its deletion.
Women's World Cup - in pictures
Women's World Cup - in pictures
Celia Sasic celebrates with her Germany team-mates after scoring a hat-trick in a 10-0 win over the Ivory Coast
Angie Ponce (sitting) scored two own goals as Ecuador were beaten 10-1 by Switzerland
England manager Mark Sampson was furious after France midfielder Camille Abily went unpunished for an elbow on Laura Bassett
Fran Kirby celebrates after a superb individual goal gave England their first win of the campaign
England secured their passage into the last-16 with a 2-1 win over Colombia
Kyah Simon shocked the world as Australia beat Brazil 1-0 to knock one of the favourites out of the competition
Lucy Bronze scored a stunning long-range goal against Norway to put England into the quarter-final
Lucy Bronze was on target again as England upset hosts Canada with two goals in the first 15 minutes
The US won the clash of the titans against Germany to book their place in Sunday's final
Laura Bassett after scoring an injury-time semi-final own goal against Japan
US players celebrate after beating Japan to win the World Cup
England finished third at the Women’s World Cup, beating Germany 1-0 after extra-time in their final match on Saturday. Arriving back in London at 7.30am, the players said they hoped they had inspired young girls to take up the sport.
“I’ve never really seen myself as a superstar or anyone’s hero, but it is great to know that these kids are looking up to us and that we are making a difference,” said right back Lucy Bronze, who was shortlisted for player of the tournament. “If in ten years’ time I can say that I made a difference and that some little girl has become the best player in the world then that’s fine by me.”
The post linked to the FA's article about the players' return, which originally began with the same text as the tweet. Soon after the tweet was deleted, that article was amended to begin "England Women returned home as heroes on Monday morning - with their bronze medals proudly hanging round their necks".
The author of that article tweeted soon after the outrage and said that he "reject[ed] any accusation of sexism".
Sorry if I caused offence. The piece is intended to sum up a nice moment when players are reunited with their families.— james callow (@jamesrcallow) July 6, 2015
I did something similar as a sub-editor at the guardian when England men's cricket team returned from winning the world t20.— james callow (@jamesrcallow) July 6, 2015
I reject any accusation of sexism and human interest is a big part of any sport reporting. Id have done the same for England me, absolutely.— james callow (@jamesrcallow) July 6, 2015
The England Twitter account isn't the only official site to be flagrantly sexist to its own players. Earlier this week, for instance, it was noticed that Fifa's own website described USA forward Alex Morgan as "A talented goalscorer with a style that is very easy on the eye and good looks to match, she is nothing short of a media phenomenon".Reuse content