Between the NFC and AFC championship games on Sunday, there was plenty of football to keep American sports fans busy this weekend. But worldwide, most football fans were busy with that other football, soccer. I’m a big fan of both sports. My preferred soccer team, Chelsea FC, has the Monday night match this week so I didn’t make it out to watch the Saturday match-ups this week. This morning I was checking some soccer blogs to prep for the Chelsea match (checking for injury/line-up news and so forth) and I came across the following shocking comments from one of the other EPL matches from the weekend.

Before kickoff at the Liverpool-Wolves match in England on Saturday, veteran announcers Andy Gray and Richard Keys were caught saying some not-so-nice things about female assistant referee Sian Massey, implying that she needed basic rules explained to her because she is a woman. Because, you know, we don’t know anything about sports (yawn). Presumably thinking that their microphones were off, Keys said, “Somebody better get down there are explain offside to her.” To which Gray responded “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.” To which Keys responded “Course they don’t. I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny (Liverpool manager Dalglish) will go potty. This isn’t the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one before?” And so it continued, with a few barbs thrown in the direction of West Ham female executive Karren Brady. You can check out the audio here.

In an interesting turn of events there was a close call with the offsides rule during that match, but contra the prediction from the announcers, Massey got the call right. So, good on you, Massey — keep up the good work and don’t let a few antiquated announcers get you down.

What is uplifting in this particular case is the reaction that the comments have sparked. And, honestly, I think the reaction to such comments says much more about a culture than the comments themselves. The response has been widespread support for Massey. Sportswriters, fans, and players have been outraged since the comments became public. For example, England captain and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted “What’s wrong with a woman being an official in a football game? I’m cool with it. All that counts is do they get the decisions right.” So, while it’s unfortunate that the comments were ever made, at least the response is the correct one: professionals should be evaluated on merit, not their sex. It’s a lesson that some American feminists could stand to internalize.

UPDATE: Andy Gray has been fired.