It’s not uncommon for women athletes to have their skills underestimated on the field. In the world of sports, women have long been undervalued and under appreciated, while men have typically been given more consideration for their athleticism. See: The Men’s U.S. national soccer team, who have never won the World Cup and yet make 40 percent more on average than players on the U.S. Women’s soccer team, who’ve won three times since 1991.
In the latest example of this discrepancy, Colombia’s women’s national soccer team is putting the team’s athletic sponsor, Adidas, on full blast after the brand made a sexist uniform flub.
This past week, Adidas launched Colombia’s 2018 kits in a lead up to the World Cup, and picked representatives to model the uniform that have the women’s team furious.
While the brand used player, James Rodríguez, to represent the men’s team for the unveiling, none of the players for the women’s side were selected to represent their team. Instead, Adidas recruited former Miss Universe winner, Paulina Vega Dieppa, whose resume boasts acting, TV hosting and modeling work, yet no experience as a professional athlete, to wear the kit for the team’s jersey promos.
Vanessa Cordoba, the team’s goalkeeper, called out the brand for the sexist decision to feature a model instead of a team member on social media.
CREDIT: @vcordoba1 / Instagram
In a post to her Twitter page, Cordoba, who plays for the University of Ohio, expressed her outrage at Adidas’ decision to use a model for the unveiling.
“I understand that for publicity’s sake, they preferred to give the jersey to Paulina Vega, but in terms of respect and merit, THE PLAYERS count as well,” wrote Cordoba, who also expressed that she didn’t blame Dieppa for her part in the campaign. She suggested that her teammate, Catalina Usme, would have been better suited for the photoshoot.
In the past few years, Colombia’s women’s team has largely outdone the men’s. In 2010 and 2014, the team finished second at Copa America Femeninas.
Cordoba’s post has since received thousands of replies of support from fans, followers and fellow teammates.
Completamente de acuerdo con Vanessa, no tiene sentido que no se haya tenido en cuenta a las futbolistas. Es una falta de respeto.
— Gabriel Rocha (@gabeto_co) November 7, 2017
“Completely agree with Vanessa. It makes no sense that they didn’t consider the women players. It’s disrespectful.”
¡Totalmente de acuerdo! Este año crearon la Liga Femenina, pero siguen los mismos problemas de inclusión y difusión con el fútbol femenino. https://t.co/lUkUZglMy8
— J.SebastiánNavarrete (@juanse_91) November 8, 2017
“Completely agree! This year they created the Women’s League, but they continue the same problems of inclusion and diffusing of women’s futbol.”
According to the Independent, Colombia’s men’s national soccer team expressed their support for the keeper via Twitter.
“Cordoba’s unhappiness is completely justified,” read a tweet on the team’s official Twitter page. “Adidas made an involuntary mistake that we’re sure they’ll make up for.”
Big athletic brands like Reebox and Nike choose to pass up female professional athletes for high-fashion models in their ads all of the time. It’s something that rarely occurs amongst the men’s division of sports brands, who mostly rely on male athletes as models. To Cordoba’s point, it’s clear why someone on Adidas’ advertising team might have opted for a model as opposed to an actual member of the team. On Instagram alone, Dieppa has 3.4 million followers, while Cordoba’s sits at 17k and her teammate Catalina Usme caps off at almost 33K. The lure of such high follower counts can be hard for a brand to pass up, because these days social media followings are where the money is. But lets not ignore beauty privilege and the fact that Dieppa fits a mold of beauty standards for women more so than female players. That in itself relies on heavily sexist and often racist notions of beauty.
The decision to pass up the actual players is a failure on Adidas’ part in providing women a diverse understanding of what strength, and beauty, can look like, and is a show of disrespect for the hard work and pride these players demonstrate on and off the field.