Getty Images is one of the world’s most reputable photo agencies. Throughout the World Cup in Russia, its elite photographers have been documenting the key players and moments of every game, capturing the emotional reactions in the stands.
But one photo gallery posted by Getty Images on Monday focused less on the game and more on the physical appearance of only some of its fans — women.
The gallery, titled “World Cup 2018: The Sexiest Fans,” featured pictures of women in the stands, some wearing revealing clothing. It appeared on the blog Foto, which is owned by Getty Images.
“The hottest fans at the #WorldCup,” Getty Images wrote in a tweet sharing the gallery, which it later deleted. It featured the sub-headline “Talk about a knock-out round,” according to an image on PetaPixel.
“Soccer is known as the beautiful game, and that includes its fans,” read the caption of the piece on Twitter. “Check out photos of some of the sexiest of them here.”
It was the type of photo gallery that would perhaps be expected in a tabloid, but not on the website of a highly regarded, prizewinning photo agency.
After facing intense backlash on social media, Getty Images’ FOTO blog deleted the gallery and published an editor’s note in its place.
“Earlier, we published a piece, ‘World Cup 2018: The Sexiest Fans,’ that did not meet our editorial standards,” the editor’s note said. “We regret the error and have removed the piece. There are many interesting stories to tell about the World Cup and we acknowledge this was not one of them.”
The photo gallery spurred criticism across Twitter and Facebook, with many calling it a sexist move that objectified women.
“Hi Getty, just in case you hadn’t noticed it’s 2018, not 1975,” wrote one critic in response to a Getty Images post on Facebook. “Enough with the dated sexist claptrap.”
“Where are the sexy men fans, Getty?” wrote another.
“In the time of #metoo, this is utterly tone-deaf.”
This Fan Girl, a project dedicated to documenting female soccer fans, tweeted that the move was “so disappointing.”
“You have a responsibility to do better than this,” the group tweeted, adding, “There really is no yawn that could be loud enough.”
A Twitter account called Women in Football tweeted: “REALLY @GettyImages??? This is 2018….times are changing so why don’t you?”
A few observers also noted that Getty Images misspelled “Colombia” as “Columbia” in its photo gallery.
But not everyone was complaining about the gallery. “What’s wrong with posting pictures of pretty women?” one man posted on Getty’s Facebook page. “Once again the PC brigade drain the fun out of life.”
The photo gallery followed a number of controversies at this year’s World Cup surrounding the treatment of women. After British sports journalist Vicki Sparks made history by becoming the first female commentator on a live World Cup match for British television, she faced criticism for her “high-pitched tone.” Other female journalists have shared accounts in recent days of being harassed and groped while broadcasting live from the World Cup.
These instances shed light on the misogyny that abounds in international soccer, an industry still dominated by men.
A representative for Getty Images confirmed to the Guardian that the agency had not received permission from the pictured women to be featured specifically in a gallery of “The Sexiest Fans.” The representative also said the agency would conduct an internal investigation.
“Getty Images holds a deep belief in the power of visuals to incite change and shift attitudes and we have done, and will continue to do, much work to promote and create a more evolved and positive depiction of women,” the agency’s statement said.