Twenty-three years ago, Briana Scurry was suddenly launched into the spotlight, and she stayed in it for a long time.
Twelve years ago, Scurry was suddenly forced out of the spotlight, and she stayed out of it for a long time.
Yes, that’s how long it’s been since Scurry’s penalty shootout heroics in the 1999 women’s World Cup final; and since the career-ending head injury she suffered in a 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer game against the Philadelphia Independence.
Almost an entire generation of American women’s soccer fans has not watched Scurry play in person. They only know what history says about her Hall of Fame career: 173 national team caps in 15 years, four World Cup trips, three Olympics, and three major titles: 1999 World Cup, 1996 Olympics (the first edition of the women’s soccer tournament) , and 2004 Olympics.
After halftime at West Chester’s football stadium on April 25, 2010, Scurry never played professional soccer again. She spent a little time in the public eye in 2011, as an ESPN analyst at the women’s World Cup and as the general manager of the ill-fated WPS team magicJack. Then she retreated for a long time.
In 2017, Scurry started to return, taking a coaching job with the NWSL’s Washington Spirit. In 2019, she made some high-profile appearances, including a reunion of 1999 stars where she bluntly questioned the US team’s goalkeeper depth chart.
This summer, she has come all the way back into the picture. Her new memoir of her, My Greatest Save: The Brave, Barrier-Breaking Journey of a World-Champion Goalkeeper, was published on Tuesday, written with Wayne Coffey, who helped Carli Lloyd write her autobiography. And on July 12, CBS Sports will unveil “The Only,” a documentary on Paramount+ telling Scurry’s story.
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“I am excited and relieved, just like I was when we won championships,” Scurry, now age 50 (yes, really) told The Inquirer. “When I first started thinking about doing this, in 2019, I had to make sure I was ready to be able to go back into those rooms of my life and really be authentic about what I’d experienced and what I felt about it at the time. And I wanted to be able to do that with not only the awesome stuff, but some of the not-so-awesome stuff, too.”
She gained the strength to do so through advocacy work on behalf of people who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries.
“I found that the most authentic you are and honest you are with people, they feel it in their heart, and they trust you and they believe you,” she said. “I knew I had to be honest and honor not only my story, but also the legacy of my mom and dad, and my amazing teammates, and everyone in my life who I appreciate greatly. … Not saying it wasn’t uncomfortable at times, and wasn’t difficult at times. But as long as I knew the words on the page were true, I would be proud of it.”
Scurry has also joined CBS’ soccer studio crew. After a few appearances earlier this year, next month she’ll be on the coverage team for Concacaf’s women’s national team championship. The tournament will serve as 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics qualifying. (Every game will be on Paramount+, with the United States’ July 4 tournament opener vs. Haiti also on CBS Sports Network.)
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On camera, she’ll be Briana Scurry, former soccer star. But her true identity of her is one she’s even prouder of: Briana Scurry, lesbian former soccer star.
Scurry has been publicly out for some time. It was known beyond just her teammates de ella when she played, and four years ago she married her wife de ella. But it’s still a step to be comfortable with telling the world.
Scurry taking that step is a major subject of the book and the documentary — the latter of which she hasn’t seen in its entirety yet. She is ready to be surprised.
“I trust Pete [Radovich, the producer] and the guys at CBS/Paramount+ to do an exceptional job,” Scurry said. “The trailer gave me chills, and it’s my life.”
The trailer includes some of former USWNT star striker Abby Wambach’s reflections on how Scurry inspired her. A key moment came when sponsors turned away from Wambach because of her sexual orientation. The same thing had happened to Scurry, and she initially didn’t understand why.
“Later in my life, I was told the same thing happened for me: because I was out, a lot of companies overlooked me,” Scurry said. “I thought it was because I was a goalkeeper. It was either because I was out, or, or both, the way I looked, or something, you know? But yeah.”
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Now, Scurry knows there was another layer to what Wambach went through.
“Because of me being willing to be open and authentic about my sexuality,” Scurry said, “it allowed her to feel comfortable, and to become who she became — and for Megan Rapinoe to be able to ‘Rapinoe it,’ as [Wambach] put it. I never knew that she felt that way.”
Those words lingered for a moment.
“I knew that Abby struggled with her sexuality when she was younger, because of the religion of her family and how big it was,” Scurry said. “But I didn’t understand that I helped her be OK with who she was. I didn’t know that.”
Society is more open now than it was when Scurry played. There are many openly queer Black players in the sport now, and some of them have cited Scurry as a role model.
“That means the world to me,” Scurry said. “Being authentically yourself, and being out, and being visible, is sometimes really scary for a lot of people, and sometimes it’s a risk that a person feels they’re taking that they may not feel is worth it. And so the fact that a lot of these young women feel like they looked up to me and were able to truly be their authentic selves is music to my ears.”