A women's basketball coach who copped hateful backlash for donning pink leather pants and stiletto heels during a game has hit back at her critics, many of whom claimed her attire was inappropriate on the court.
Sydney Carter, an assistant coach for Texas A&M University's women's basketball team, was subjected to a torrent of criticism online after sharing a series of photos that showed off her on-court ensemble at a recent game.
The 31-year-old teamed a pair of pink patent pants with a long-sleeve cream turtleneck and clear stiletto heels for her game-day garb, accessorised with a red mask, a pink manicure and a pink Breast Cancer Awareness pin. The photos, taken at the Texas A&M Aggies versus Kentucky Wildcats game on February 6, showed Carter striding along the sidelines with her clipboards as she coached the college team.
But the pictures prompted uproar across social media, with many quick to condemn Carter's choice of clothing as inappropriate.
"Is this outfit appropriate as a basketball coach?" one man asked.
"I'm not feeling it at all if she is coaching basketball. Looks like club gear and you want to be taken seriously," another weighed in.
One branded the get-up as "inappropriate", claiming Carter "should get a ticket/fine" for her outfit.
"Why would you dress in pants that tight to coach?" one person questioned, while another added: "Don't those high heels damage the floor?"
"The heels just make the whole outfit look out of place," one man opined, suggesting sneakers may have been a more suitable choice. "Heels just don't fit the occasion... you look banging though!"
But the criticism was offset by an overwhelming outpour of support from Carter's fans, many of whom were quick to put the fault-finders in their place. Several argued that women should have the freedom to dress as they please, slamming the backlash as sexist.
"Sydney Carter is a legend at TAMU [Texas A&M University] and she's doing her thing as a coach," tweeted ESPN reporter Terrika Foster-Brasby. "The last thing people need to be worried about is her outfit - which looks AMAZING by the way."
"Why are women's 'fits on the court of any one's concern," another clapped back. "She looks stunning in her attire. Maybe we should start asking the same questions about the male counterparts across the board."
"I love this," wrote a Facebook user. "It's showing her players, staff etc they can still be [hoopers] and maintain their femininity."
In a post to Instagram, the Texas A&M Aggies stood in solidarity with their assistant coach, sharing a photo of Carter in a cream blouse, skirt and heels ensemble with her players in tow. "Let them talk. We got your back," they captioned the picture.
Carter issued a statement via her Twitter following the furor, thanking people for their support while hitting back at her critics.
"Representation matters. As a Black woman in coaching, I take pride in showing that people who look like me don't have to diminish our light to appeal to others, whose opinions never mattered anyway," she wrote.
"I will continue to unapologetically be myself, apply pressure, and show that Black women can express our individuality while doing our jobs at a high level."
Speaking to Yahoo, Carter doubled-down on her response, saying she believed race played a significant role in the backlash.
"I just think that people are uncomfortable with a black woman being in a power position," she told the outlet.
"When you see a black woman who is actually confident and embracing herself, I think that's very intimidating.
"I'm unapologetically myself every day, I could care less if anybody thinks that I'm being extra. I'm not gonna turn up, turn my light off because somebody else is offended or intimidated by the fact that I embrace myself."
And the backlash hasn't deterred Carter from continuing to share her court attire, with some of her recent looks including a tie-dye dress and a matching pink plaid suit.
Carter played for the Aggies between 2008 and 2012 and was a three-time team captain. She ranks 10th of all time in steals (206) and 18th in points (1176), according to the Texas A&M website. She was selected 27th overall in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft to the Chicago Sky, where she played for four years.
Speaking to Yahoo, Carter acknowledged that her attire had been criticised ad nauseum throughout her career and as a result, she is accustomed to the backlash. However, she added that she isn't attempting to "set a trend" with her choice in outfits.
"You hear so many times that people don't want to watch women play basketball, because there's too many that look manly, or they play like a guy or don't play enough like guys," she said.
"Women can never satisfy anybody in any aspect of life. Just as a woman, it's hard enough. It's hard enough that we're not paid the same or that people think that we can't do some of the same things or something as well as men in a male-dominated industry."