Title IX: Scurry’s Career, Law Forever Tied to the Smithsonian
Briana Scurry’s United States national soccer team jersey is at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in a permanent exhibit that notes Title IX’s contribution to equal opportunity.
The Law paved the way for the black keeper to break down barriers with her talent, determination and courage, amassing a long list of honors in what was a predominantly white sport.
“When the curators of the National Museum of African American History and Culture contacted us, I remember thinking that this couldn’t be real – because the reason is that I hadn’t realized that my work in football and my advocacy for TBI (traumatic brain injury) and gay rights actually had such a big impact in my community that I would deserve to be in this museum,” she said.
Scurry, 50, has a World Cup title, two Olympic gold medals and was the first black woman to be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
It’s a stunning resume, even more impressive given Scurry’s complex background.
She faced challenges as an openly gay black woman in what was a predominantly white sport. There were hardly any players who looked like her when she took to the sport’s biggest stage; today, the United States national soccer team roster includes eight women of color.
Scurry reflected on his career in the memoir, “My Greatest Save: The Brave, Barrier-Breaking Journey of a World Champion Goalkeeper” released this month – adapted to Thursday’s 50th anniversary of Title IX.
The world champion benefited from scholarships that the law brought to women’s sports – it was the only way for her to attend university. She was also blessed with defenders who lifted her up, from coach Pete Swenson who secretly paid for his elite youth team in Minnesota, to the woman — later his wife — who helped her recover from a brain injury that clouded her mind for three years.
But Scurry’s perseverance got her into the national team in 1994 and she played 173 games for her country in a career that spanned 14 years.
His defining moment was the 1999 World Cup final at the Rose Bowl. The game against China ended in a penalty shootout and Scurry’s shootout save set up Brandi Chastain’s game-winning shot. The jersey worn by Scurry is the one on display at the Smithsonian.
Scurry remembers the moment vividly. Normally for PKs, she followed a strict routine, focusing on herself and prowling towards the goal “like a big cat” while avoiding her opponent’s gaze.
“For some reason, and to this day I can’t explain it, on that third kick, something in my mind said ‘Look’, and so I looked at her and I could see that her shoulders were sloping and she was sort of walking with a little light jog and she really didn’t look like she was confident. And I read it all in that look and I was like, ‘This is that one”.
“So before I got into the goal, I knew I was saving this one.”
Then 13 years after that glorious moment, Scurry was embroiled in controversy at the 2007 World Cup.
Coach Greg Ryan decided to start the veteran keeper against Hope Solo in the semi-final game against Brazil. The United States lost 4–0, and Solo publicly criticized the decision, essentially blaming Scurry for the loss.
“I think the silver lining was my teammates, who supported me. I really respected what the women’s national team stood for, and what she did was way out of bounds and an anomaly — to kick him out of the house,” Scurry said of Solo. “I also learned to forgive someone – that was really what it was – learning to forgive someone who clearly felt betrayed to me.”
But the real drama in Scurry’s life would come years later, while she was playing for her professional team, the Washington Freedom. During a game with the Philadelphia Independence, Scurry took a knee to his head.
Suffering from a concussion, she was only to be absent for a few days. But for more than three years, she struggled with constant headaches, dizziness, light sensitivity and blackouts. Experimental surgery that removed two balls of tangled nerves from the back of her head finally brought her back.
“I felt completely disconnected from what I loved to do before and all these different things. People describe depression this way: you’re not into the things you were doing before, you isolate yourself, you withdraw and you have low energy,” she said. “I mean, it’s literally like unplugging, that’s what it felt like.”
From this dark period emerged a light: she met Chryssa Zizos, the director of a public relations company in Washington DC. Zizos helped Scurry redeem her Olympic gold medals, which she had pawned, and put her on the road to recovery.
They fell in love. In 2018, the couple got married.
“My head, that’s what started it all, right? So isn’t it amazing? And that’s the beauty: I’ve learned to find that silver lining in everything. It’s such a cliched thing to say, but when it comes to concrete, horrific things, which at the time were the worst thing ever, it ended up being the start of something amazing,” he said. she declared.
“Yeah, it’s all in how you look at it.”
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