Briana Scurry is the first African-American woman elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame
The Olympic and Women’s World Cup champion also will be the first female goaltender enshrined
Briana Scurry’s soccer career began in Dayton, Minnesota. The 12-year-old was the only African-American and only girl on the team.
Thirty-two years later, Scurry became the only African-American woman in the National Soccer Hall of Fame after she was elected in her fourth year of eligibility. The starting goaltender for the U.S. women’s national team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup also was the first female goalie chosen for the hall, according to The Washington Post’s Steven Goff.
Scurry, who has been eligible since 2014, was the lone player elected among 33 nominees announced in May. Dr. Joe Machnik, a former player, coach, referee and commissioner, joined Scurry in the 2017 class. U.S. Soccer said details about the induction ceremony will be unveiled later.
A 14-year soccer veteran, Scurry retired from the Washington Freedom of the Women’s Professional Soccer League seven years ago. She suffered a career-ending concussion after taking a knee to the temple at full speed from a Philadelphia Independence forward.
A gold medalist with the U.S. team at the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics, Scurry is remembered for her cross-net deflection of China’s Liu Ying’s spot kick that set up Brandi Chastain’s game-winning penalty-kick-to-shirtless-slide succession in the 1999 Women’s World Cup.
“It’s a fantastic honor to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. I remember watching the Olympics on the couch with my parents at 8 years old, dreaming of becoming an Olympian myself. It was with their help – and that of my coaches, teammates and countless others – that I was blessed to not only become an Olympian, but an Olympic and World Cup champion,” Scurry told U.S. Soccer. “Soccer had already given me so much more than I could possibly give back. Now, to be inducted alongside the likes of Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly – I am truly humbled.
“And though my mother and father have passed, I can feel their pride swell. Thank you for letting me play for you, and thank you all for this incredible honor.”
Scurry’s coach on that boys soccer team in Dayton placed her in goal to avoid her getting hurt.
She took to the sport and continued to play at a varsity level at Anoka High School and as a scholarship athlete for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The political science major was flirting with the idea of attending law school when U.S. women’s national team coach Tony DiCicco called her in 1993 about playing goaltender for the team.
Two years later, Scurry started in net for the team, which placed third in the Women’s World Cup. A year later, the team took home the gold in Atlanta, where Scurry only allowed three goals during the five-game Olympic tournament.
It wasn’t until 1999 that women’s soccer in the U.S. would reach rock-star status, as a record 90,000 spectators packed into the Rose Bowl to watch the U.S. take on China in a World Cup match that would go to an overtime shootout.
Chastain’s shirt-twirling, sports-bra laden and muscle-flexing celebration after she scored the game-winning penalty kick wasn’t the only celebration to make it onto a Wheaties box. The fist-clinching and high-stepping exuberance Scurry showed was also immortalized on the breakfast cereal box.
“Briana Scurry at her peak – no one has ever played better than that for the USA,” DiCicco, who coached Scurry for five years, told The Washington Post in 2013. “She was the best in the world. That’s the truth.”
On March 11, 2016, UMass announced that because of “Scurry’s impact on the legacy of the U.S. Women’s National Team program and contributions on the field,” she would become a permanent fixture of the National Museum of African-American History & Culture’s Title IX exhibit.
Since her retirement, Scurry has spent much of her time talking about concussions, traumatic brain injuries and being an advocate for LGBTQ rights. In a 2015 interview with Think Progress, Scurry said her teammates have always known she was gay.
A lot of her involvement and advocacy in brain injuries stems from her own battle with them.
Before that knee to the head in 2010, Scurry had two documented concussions. For three years, five months and 25 days, Scurry was at the mercy of debilitating migraines and a depression that confined her to the couch on many days. Relief didn’t come until 2013 when Scurry underwent bilateral occipital nerve surgery at Georgetown University.
“I was stripped of myself,” Scurry told The Washington Post in 2016. “It was like I was in someone else’s body.
“When I started playing on the [U.S. women’s national team] in the mid-’90s, you get your head hit, you get your bell rung, you shake it off. Unless you’re knocked out. Even if you’re knocked out, once you recover, you get up and you keep going. We didn’t know. … Back then, the treatment was to go sit in your room for a while and don’t fall asleep. Now we understand that if you get hit in the head, you need to get looked at. Err on the side of caution, which definitely is something we didn’t do back then. We now understand that the brain has been injured. And I don’t think we understood that or knew what that meant.”
From 1994 and 2008, Scurry made 173 appearances for the women’s national team. And while everyone loves to talk about her 1999 heroics, in a June 25 article with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, she pointed to the Summer Games in Athens in 2004 as the most important tournament for her.
“For me, that was the tournament,” Scurry, whose father died a few months before the Summer Games, told Andy Greder. “I don’t know how I made some of the saves I did.”