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NWSL players take issue with FIFA 23 avatars: ‘Some of us are bald’

(Graphic courtesy of NWSL)

After years of waiting, and then an extra week’s delay, the NWSL finally debuted Wednesday in the popular “FIFA 23” video game. But almost immediately, NWSL players began to voice their displeasure with their digital likenesses.

Angel City FC forward Sydney Leroux called out the game regarding her player avatar and those of other players. And while she injected humorous disbelief into her critiques, she made clear that the issue cuts deeper than surface-level jokes.

“I know you expect women to just be thankful and grateful that you’ve given us a little sliver of publicity but please stop wasting our time,” Leroux tweeted. “Some of us are bald.”

The bald player included in Leroux’s post seems to be Canada women’s national team goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan — who at least sports her usual full head of hair in her San Diego Wave avatar, if not in her Canada avatar, as she noted on her own Twitter account.

Leroux’s Angel City teammate Madison Hammond also took issue with her representation in the game.

“Somebody please lmk when they find me, Madison Hammond #99 from Angel City!” she tweeted. “Because this … is simply not it!”

Houston Dash defender Caprice Dydasco posted a photo of herself alongside a screenshot of her avatar to present a stark comparison.

“I’m grateful EA Sports is finally including the NWSL but this does not represent me,” she tweeted.

Dydasco is among a small group of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander players in the NWSL, which makes her avatar even more disappointing.

With so few AAPI players in the league, “it’s really important to be that much more thoughtful and deliberate about appearances,” The Athletic’s Steph Yang tweeted.

Incongruous avatars and player ratings can leave NWSL players feeling like they remain on the outskirts of the soccer community, despite what has been marketed as a milestone for inclusion.

“When EA Sports didn’t put me in the top 10 for speed I was mad but I was like eh we will show them,” Angel City FC defender Sarah Gorden tweeted. “But when they gave me a 48 rating in speed I realized they have never and will never actually watch a NWSL game.”