Briana Scurry’s U.S. National Football Team jersey is on permanent display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, demonstrating Title IX’s contribution to leveling the playing field.
The law paved the way for the black goalie to clear the way with her talent, determination and courage, amassing a long list of accolades in a predominantly white sport.
“When the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture contacted us, I remember thinking it couldn’t be true – because I wasn’t aware of my work in football and my understanding of TBI (traumatic brain) advocacy harm) and gay rights have actually had such a big impact on my community that I deserve to be in this museum,” she said.
Scully, 50, holds a World Cup title, two Olympic gold medals and is the first black woman to be inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame.
It’s an impressive resume, even more impressive given Scurry’s complex journey.
As an openly gay black woman, she faced challenges in a predominantly white movement. When she stepped onto the sport’s biggest stage, hardly any player looked like her; today, the U.S. national soccer team has eight women of color on its roster.
Scurry looks back on her career in her memoir “My Greatest Saves: The World Championship Goalkeeper’s Brave, Barrier-Breaking Journey” released this month – which coincides with Title IX’s 50th anniversary on Thursday.
The world champion benefits from a scholarship the law brings to the women’s sport – the only way she can get to college. She’s also fortunate to have advocates who support her, from coach Pete Swenson, who secretly paid for Minnesota’s elite youth team, to the woman who helped her get rid of the brain damage — and later, her wife — who left her spirited for three years.
But Scurry’s perseverance led to her being named to the national team in 1994, for which she played 173 games over a 14-year career.
Her defining moment was the 1999 Rose Bowl World Cup final. The match against China went into a penalty shootout, with Scurry’s penalty save setting the stage for Brandi Chastain’s winning goal. The jersey worn by Scully is the one on display at the Smithsonian.
Quickly remember that moment. Usually when PKing, she follows a strict procedure, turning her attention inward, wandering over the target “like a big cat” while avoiding the glare of her opponent.
“For some reason, which I can’t explain to this day, on the third kick I had something in my head saying ‘look’ so I looked at her and I could see her shoulders were sloping , she kind of walked a little bit and jogged a little bit, she really didn’t look confident. I read the whole thing in that glimpse and I was like “this is that”.
“So before I get to the target, I know I’m saving the target.”
Thirteen years after that glorious moment, Scurry was embroiled in controversy during the 2007 World Cup.
Coach Greg Ryan decided to give the veteran goalkeeper a win over Hopsolo in the semi-final against Brazil. The U.S. lost 4-0, a decision Solow publicly criticized, essentially blaming the loss on rush.
“I think the silver lining is my teammates, they’ve got my back. I really respect what the women’s national team stands for, and everything she’s done is out of bounds and perverse — taking it outside the house,” St. Curry said of Solo. “I also learned how to forgive someone – that’s what it is – learning how to forgive someone I clearly felt betrayed me.”
But the real drama in Scurry’s life will come a few years later, when she plays for her professional team, the Washington Liberty. During the game against the Philadelphia Independent, Scully put his knee on his head.
Diagnosed with a concussion, she is expected to be out for only a few days. But for the next three-plus years, she struggled with persistent headaches, dizziness, light sensitivity and memory loss. An experimental surgical procedure to remove two tangled neurospheres from the back of her head has finally brought her back.
“I felt completely disconnected from the things I used to enjoy doing and all these different things. People describe depression this way: You don’t like the things you used to enjoy, you isolate, you withdraw, you don’t have the energy,” she said. “I mean, it’s like unplugging, that’s how I feel.”
Dawn emerged from that dark period: She met Chryssa Zizos, the head of a PR firm in Washington, D.C. Zizos helped Scurry buy back her pawned Olympic gold medal and put her on the road to recovery.
They are in love. In 2018, the couple got married.
“My head, that’s how the whole thing started, right? So isn’t it amazing? Here’s the beauty: I’ve learned to find a silver lining in everything. It’s a cliché, but when it comes to being specific, When something terrible, at the time I thought it was the worst thing ever, it ended up being the beginning of something amazing,” she said.
“Yeah, depending on what you think.”
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