Alex Morgan’s goal Tuesday against England accomplished a lot. It gave the United States the decisive margin for a 2-1 win that propelled the team to the Women’s World Cup final, it provided quite the icing on Morgan’s 30th birthday cake and, for those inclined to see the game in the context of impending Independence Day celebrations, her jersey number of 13 neatly matched the number of colonies that banded together in the Revolutionary War.
The goal also made it extremely difficult for some England fans to maintain a stiff upper lip. That’s because Morgan celebrated the tally by doing this:
That’s right, Morgan followed up a goal that ultimately led to England suffering a painful defeat by pretending to sip from a cup of tea. Jolly good troll job!
Not surprisingly, while Morgan and Co. were whooping it up in France, the reaction on the other side of the English Channel was less joyful. The high-scoring forward was criticized for having engaged in a “classless” act, and a few observers even accused her of having actually promoted pot-smoking.
Seriously, that was a thing, with her tea-sipping gesture interpreted by some as pretending to put a joint to her lips. Because nothing says “marijuana smoker” like a raising of one’s pinkie finger, right?
While the likes of British media personality Piers Morgan got their knickers in a misguided twist, others correctly saw Morgan’s celebration for what it was and channeled Queen Victoria in announcing, “We are not amused.”
That group included Lianne Sanderson, a former member of England’s national team who said on BeIN Sports, “I expected Alex to grab a goal, but I’m not that happy with that celebration. You can celebrate however you want, but that for me is a bit distasteful. … I could be wrong, but it’s based upon playing against England, and we love our tea.”
Sanderson was also among those who described the mock tea-drinking as “disrespectful."
Some of the criticism came from Morgan’s compatriots, with Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum saying on Twitter, “I want them to win. But I still think this is not great sportsmanship, it just seems rude.”
More than a few England fans were already brassed off at the USWNT for its perceived arrogance, particularly after a 13-0 rout of Thailand earlier in the World Cup. Morgan played a role in that, as well, making a show of counting her five goals in that game on her fingers.
Going into Tuesday’s semifinal matchup, England Coach Phil Neville let it be known that he was less than chuffed about U.S. team staffers visiting his squad’s hotel just in case the Americans decided to stay there before Sunday’s final, also to be held in Lyon. The implication that his opponents were beginning to think about the logistics of a win over his team was not lost on Neville.
“I actually found it quite funny,” he said. “I just thought, ‘What are they doing?’ It’s not etiquette really, is it? The only thing I would say is it’s not something that I would want my team ops person doing.”
Naturally, what Morgan did Tuesday was far from universally derided. Many viewers, British as well as American, shared their amusement over the celebration. Some, again with a much earlier U.S. victory in mind, pointed to the Boston Tea Party.
For her part, Morgan said at a postgame news conference that she simply wanted to “keep it interesting” with her pinkie-raised revelry, pointing to teammate Megan Rapinoe as having set something of a standard for goal celebrations.
“This team has had so much thrown at us, and we didn’t take the easy route to the final in this tournament,” said Morgan, who (per The Guardian’s Caitlyn Murray) smirked while adding, “And that’s the tea.”