U.S. Women’s 1999 Champion Soccer Team Statue at Rose Bowl Prompts Spirited Exchanges

Councilmember Kennedy leads questioning

Published : Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 5:41 AM

A City Council discussion Monday night considering approval for a commemorative statue of the 1999 Team USA Women’s World Cup Champions near the entrance to the Rose Bowl ignited spirited, at times testy, exchanges over the selection process of not just the subject, but the artist, among other issues.

Pending review by the Arts and Culture Commission and the Recreation and Parks Commission, the statue is set to debut on July 10, 2019, the 20th anniversary of the historic match at the stadium.

The statue captures the iconic moment following Brandi Chastain’s winning kick in a penalty shootout between the U.S. and China, to give the Americans the win in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.

It was the U.S. women’s second World Cup title and its first on U.S. soil.

Following the winning kick, Chastain stripped off her jersey, revealing her black sports bra, and dropped to her knees, her arms raised in triumph, before being swamped by her teammates.

Chastain is captured in that pose in the planned statue, with her teammates dashing to congratulate her in the background.

Although $150,000 was eventually approved unanimously by the Council for the statue, Councilmember John Kennedy began the Council discussion by asking why Chastain had been chosen to represent the team in the sculpture and asking why midfielder Kristine Lilly,  for example, was not selected.

Kennedy also asked Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation’s Executive Director Dedan Brozino to produce comprehensive selection criteria.

The selection of Brian Hanlon, the artist who created the statue of Jackie Robinson at the front of the Rose Bowl, without a review of other artists, was also questioned by Kennedy.

Brozino responded that the goal of the foundation was to give the upcoming series of statues, including one of ABC college football broadcaster Keith Jackson, some “similarity” in their design.

Councilmember Steve Madison, who was at the historic 1999 championship game and was attending the meeting by telephone from New York City, called Kennedy’s reaction to the statue “perplexing.”

But Madison wondered about the location of the statue, concerned that it was too close in proximity to nearby restrooms.

Rose Bowl CEO/General Manager Darryl Dunn responded that the site committee had sited the location from several angles, and felt confident about the choice of the location.

Councilmember Margaret McAustin, for her part, told the Council, adamantly, “I have to tell you, as important as you think this is,… unless you’re a woman, you don’t really get how powerful that moment was, and we saw the shot over and over and over on TV, and because it was televised, it allowed it to become this universally shared experience, for women and girls.

Continued McAustin, “This is huge in so many ways, for women and girls’ empowerment, and women’s sports, this just excited a whole new generation of girls, about soccer and women’s sports.”

McAustin also noted, smiling,  “When you think about the women’s soccer team today, they are so much better than the men’s team, and they have been for some many years, and we hope that they will soon be paid as much.”

During the public speaker portion of the meeting, Pasadena resident Denise Mourges railed at the committee, criticizing the selection of a male artist to depict a woman athlete. Mourges compared the statue to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was designed by architect and artist Maya Lin.

“I am shocked,” said Mourges. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves.”

As a Rose Bowl Operating Company staff report noted, “The 1999 Team USA Women’s World Cup Championship was one of the all-time historic moments remembered not just at the Stadium, but around the country as one of the watershed moments for female athletics in this country.”

The report added that U.S. Soccer, its current and former executives, and members of the 1999 team—including Chastain—have supported and approved of all renderings and the elements associated with the project. Key supporters of the project include United States Soccer, AYSO Region 13, and private philanthropists in the Pasadena area, according to the report.

“USA’s inspirational moment at America’s Stadium during the 1999 Women’s World Cup Championship Game,” said the staff report, “was an iconic moment of change for female athletics in the United States and all over the world, inspiring a generation of youth and female athletes like never before.”

The victory was watched live by a world women’s sporting event record attendance of 90,185 fans, including former President Bill Clinton, and by more than 18 million viewers worldwide on television, “inspiring a new generation of women athletes not only in soccer, but in a host of other sports as well,” said the staff report.

The 1999 Team USA statue will be similar in stature to the height of the Jackie Robinson statue, which is approximately 7′ 2″ tall at the height of the bronze wall. The main figure of Chastain, in front of a bronze wall, will be elevated slightly to provide a closer eye-to-eye connection, according to the presentation by Brezino.

Informational reader rails will be included in the project and located adjacent to the marker in order to highlight the accomplishments of the statue subject matter, educate visitors. and appropriately recognize the donors to the project, Brezino told the council.

“Donor acknowledgment will be done tastefully and modestly and will not detract from the overall presentation of the statue and/or the surroundings,” said the report.