‘Unreal’

Player’s landmark win of soccer’s highest award marred by sexist question she was asked onstage

DJ Martin Solveig and Olympique Lyonnais' Ada Hegerberg with the Women's Ballon d'Or award. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

Soccer’s most prestigious individual award, the Ballon d’Or, had only been awarded to men for more than 60 years until Monday night, when 23-year-old Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg won the first ever Ballon d’Or for being the best female player in soccer. Unfortunately, the landmark moment was ruined almost instantly by the host of the evening, French DJ Martin Solveig, as he interviewed the young star following her remarkable achievement.

“Do you know how to twerk?” he asked.

“No,” said Hegerberg bluntly, before swiftly turning her back on the DJ. As the camera cut to the crowd, audience members — including male player Kylian Mbappe, the winner of the inaugural Kopa award for best young player — could be seen with their mouths agape in disbelief.

On social media, criticism was swift and furious as many accused the DJ of tarnishing the Ballon d’Or with misogyny by brazenly sexualizing Hegerberg on a night that was supposed to be about honoring her outstanding professional achievements.

“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport,” wrote tennis star Andy Murray in an Instagram story. “Why do women have still have to put up with that shit? What questions did they ask Mbappe and Modric (this year’s winner of the men’s Ballon d’Or)? I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks people are overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

“This is the crap female athletes deal with on a daily basis around the world,” added Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports contributor Grant Wahl in a tweet.

Asked about Solveig’s line of questioning after the fact, Hegerberg said that the DJ had later come up to her to apologize and that she hadn’t taken his comment “as sexual harassment or anything.”

“I was just happy to get a dance and celebrate winning the Ballon d’Or, to be honest,” she said.

Solveig has since posted a video of himself apologizing for the incident on Twitter, suggesting that the criticism leveled at him comes “from a distortion of my English level and my English culture level” — a slightly bizarre justification, especially since he actually asked the offending question in French.

“I’m a little bit amazed by what I’m reading on the internet. I, of course, did not want to offend anyone. This comes from a distortion of my English level and my English culture level … I didn’t know this could be seen as such an offense especially if you consider the sequence in total where we ended up dancing to Frank Sinatra. This was a joke, probably a bad one, and I want to apologize for anyone I might have offended. Sorry about that.”

See Solveig’s apology below.

Read the full story at CNN.

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