Alex Morgan USWNT 2019Getty Images

What is the Alex Morgan tea sipping celebration? USWNT & Tottenham star’s goal gesture explained

Alex Morgan played a crucial role in the U.S. women's national team's historic victory in the 2019 World Cup in France, scoring six goals in the tournament - including five in the opener against Thailand.

One of her most memorable contributions, however, came in her winning goal in the semi-final against England. Putting her side 2-1 ahead just before half-time, she rejoiced by putting her fingers to her lips as if sipping an invisible cup of tea.

Why was Alex Morgan sipping tea?

Most England fans thought Morgan was mocking their culture by alluding to the act of drinking tea during her goal celebration.

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After scoring, the striker put her fingers to her mouth with her pinky out, tilted her head back as if to take a sip of the imaginary beverage, which drew irate criticism from opposition fans.

It was Morgan's goal indeed that knocked England out of the tournament, with Christen Press and Morgan's strikes cancelling out Ellen White's equaliser.

Obviously, drinking tea is something scared to English culture, with viewers quick to take her celebration personally.

Piers Morgan brandished her celebration as "a declaration of war," while former England international Lianne Sanderson stated: “I’m not that happy with that celebration.

“That for me is a bit distasteful and I don’t think she needs to do that. For me this was a little bit disrespectful.

“I could be wrong but it’s based upon playing against England and we love our tea in England, I’m not a tea drinker but that’s what we’re connected with.”

Legions of England fans took to Twitter to criticise her celebration. While many supporters took it as an innocent celebration - on Morgan's birthday, no less - others said it was rude and unnecessary.

Alex Morgan English USWNTGetty

“My celebration was actually more, ‘That’s the tea,’ which is telling a story, spreading news,” Morgan later said.

“I know Megan Rapinoe has the best celebration. I had to try and step up this game.”

Her national team-mate Rapinoe is also known for her celebrations in the World Cup, particularly the one in which she stands with her arms outstretched.

Morgan's celebration invited many theories. Possible explanations that don't involve making a mockery of English culture include a reference to the Boston Tea Party - a significant event in American history - or an allusion to "tea" being slang for "gossip."

Morgan herself stated that she had merely meant to pay tribute to Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, who uses the phrase “and that’s the tea” frequently in her social media.

“It wasn’t a hit to England in any way,” explained Morgan. 

The USWNT striker went on to call out the double-standards that take place in sport regarding how women are treated for a supposed "controversial" goal celebration.

"I feel that there is some sort of double standard for females in sports to feel like we have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much, and have to do something but it always has to be in a limited fashion," she said.

"You see men celebrating all around the world in big tournaments, grabbing their sacks or whatever it is, and when I look at sipping a cup of tea, I'm a little taken aback. You have to laugh about it to see all of the criticism."

Robbie Fowler's infamous "sniff the line" celebration - in which he hit back at rumours he used cocaine by sniffing the goal line after scoring - in contrast, has been deemed one of the most iconic moments in football.

When asked about the celebration, Rapinoe defended her team-mate, stating: “Wah, wah, wah. We’re at the World Cup - what do you want us to do? This is the biggest stage, the biggest moment. I don’t think anyone truly believes that we disrespect the game or disrespect our opponents.”

“We had the utmost respect for England and every team that we faced and every team that we will face, forever and ever,” she added.

“That’s just part of the DNA of the squad. With that said, we work hard, we like to play hard, and we like to have fun and enjoy ourselves.”