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Professional May 16, 2012

Former U.S. Women’s National Team star Brandi Chastain keeps cool as Title IX criticized

Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) stars Brandi Chastain and Sissi of the California Storm, along with WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli, were in attendance on Monday, May 14, when the California Assembly recognized the 40th anniversary of federal legislation Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972. Sadly, not everyone supports the goals of Title IX.

Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

According to an AP report in the Washington Post, “If Brandi Chastain could have cried foul, she would have,” when Assemblyman Chris Norby of Fullerton got up to criticize Title IX for what he saw as its negative effects on male athletes. Norby complained that the legislation had never been intended to deny men the opportunity to play sports, but has been blamed for cutting many men’s programs in the name of “equality.”

Chastain, who was the recipient of a Title IX scholarship that allowed her to play soccer at the University of California, Berkeley and Santa Clara University, visibly winced when Norby made his comments. The former U.S. Women’s National Team star attempted to respond, but was unable to because the procedure of resolutions does not allow for public response.

While Assemblyman Norby had his reservations about the effects of Title IX, several other legislators spoke up to defend the law that has been used to move toward equality between men’s and women’s sports. One Assemblyman gave the disparity between baseball and softball fields at his daughter’s high school as an example, while another admitted that he had harbored reservations until the birth of his daughter.

Chastain, who has a son, is best remembered for her championship game-winning 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup penalty kick goal and the ensuing bra-baring celebration. Over the years she has used her celebrity status to help further the women’s game at all levels, while continuing to play. This summer she will help lead the California Storm into the 2012 WPSL season, under the direction of Zanelli who also coaches the Storm.

“I started working in the California legislature in 1967,” said Zanelli who spent several decades in Sacramento politics, “and the fight for women’s rights has raged on for as long as I can remember. All I can say is thank goodness for Title IX, especially for women’s soccer. Now there are thousands of women around the country who are playing high school and college soccer because of Title IX.”

Zanelli has known Chastain for 22 years and has coached her on and off throughout her soccer career. It was under his direction that she switched from forward to defender, giving her the chance to return to the U.S. Women’s National Team in time for the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

“Brandi is not only a champion and a recipient of a Title IX scholarship,” Zanelli said, “but a role model of someone who has continued to give back to the soccer world and our community and support Title IX. Brandi has always been supportive of women’s rights, and yesterday was no exception.”

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