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Midge Purce slams Alexi Lalas for ‘trivializing women’s sports’

Alex Morgan takes a selfie with fans after the USWNT's scoreless draw against Portugal. (Hannah Peters/FIFA via Getty Images)

Midge Purce called out Fox Sports analyst Alexi Lalas for questioning the motivation of the U.S. women’s national team and “trivializing women’s sports” in the process.

Both Lalas and Carli Lloyd had a lot to say about the team’s performance on the Fox Sports broadcast following the USWNT’s scoreless draw with Portugal. Lloyd called the USWNT’s performance “lackluster” and “uninspiring,” noting a shift in the team culture she has observed over the last several years.

“Carli, when you were talking earlier about, the winning doesn’t matter as much anymore, I want to make sure I understand what you were saying. Because if that’s the case right now — not just with this team but with this federation right now — where it’s not first and foremost about winning on the field, then that’s a massive, massive problem,” Lalas added.

Many observers — from fans to media members to former USWNT players — have taken exception the commentary, including former U.S. defender Ali Krieger and injured U.S. forward Purce.

“I was baffled by the comments,” Purce said on Just Women’s Sports’ World Cup show “The 91st.”

“I’m all for critiquing the players’ performances, their tactical awareness, their positioning,” Purce continued. “But to diminish their commitment and their discipline, their character, that’s absolutely ludicrous to me.”

Lalas questioned the USWNT’s priorities, which to Purce’s “The 91st” co-host Katie Nolan seemed like an invitation from Lalas to further criticize the team’s players.

“So is it about appearances, is it about fame, is it about money, is it about all the other things that have come to this team for, now, a number of years, and that getting in the way of what has given them, ultimately, the platform?” he asked Lloyd, who responded by talking about the “fine line” between confidence and arrogance.

“The way he asked it sure felt like he was hoping for a yes,” Nolan said. “To do that in regard to a team who has very publicly fought for equal pay, for whom money has been an issue in the sense that they have not been given the money they deserve… To say that money goes to the heads of these players and has somehow diminished their on-field performance, to me, is apology-worthy, almost.”

Purce agreed with Nolan’s reading of Lalas’ question.

“When I heard it, (my) jaw dropped,” Purce said. “What he’s saying is, not only is he just trivializing women’s sports — because you’re saying that this is not an industry, it’s not a business where money is a priority, where exposure and investment are priorities — you’re saying, ‘Oh, we can’t compromise this sanctity of the women’s game. You must play purely for the love of the game. You must play for your heart. You must play because you just have this burning desire inside you to win. Let’s not muddy all of this with money.’

“It’s ridiculous. It suggests that as we advance in investment and exposure, our performance is compromised. That we are not capable of being a big business and also performing is a horrible thing to say. I cannot fathom, if (NFL quarterback) Jalen Hurts had a bad year this year after he signed his $255 million dollar contract, I can’t fathom anyone saying,  ‘It’s the money, it’s the money that got to him.’”

The bottom line, Purce concluded, is to have respect for USWNT players in discussions of their World Cup performance.

“It’s not difficult to have enough respect for the players — even if you know them or if you don’t know them — to not question their heart, their motives, their will to win or their efforts,” she continued. “I mean, that’s not hard. And we can collectively, as a community, do a better job.”