During the Friday game against newcomers Vietnam, which opened the international competition for the American team—currently considered among the best in the world—most U.S. players did not sing the national anthem. They stared ahead in silence while “The Star Spangled Banner” played through.
Most of the U.S. players were silent with their fists behind their backs. Only five players were standing and placed their hands over their hearts as the anthem played, while three sang along.
The American team, the two-time defending World Cup champion, brought a staggering victory home, ending the game 3-0 against the rival team. But some fans were not happy with the way the majority of the team behaved during the playing of the national anthem.
“Yeah, too bad they all aren’t proud to have hands-on hearts and sing. Vietnam team was sure proud if theirs. Disappointing,” another wrote. “If they become militant about, just quit funding them,” tweeted another.
On the other hand:
Criticism over not singing the national anthem was combined online with the kind of misogynistic comments that have followed and opposed the rise of women’s soccer, with some saying that the team was bringing “shame” to the sport and calling the players “disgusting.”
This may feel like deja vu to Rapinoe whose career has been characterized by her activism. She took a knee in 2016, one week after Colin Kaepernick. The reaction of US Soccer is recounted in a 2020 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross.
“And this is what U.S. Soccer said in an official statement. And you say it might as well have been headed dear Megan. So the statement was (reading) representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s national tyeam. In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our men’s and women’s national team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in the country. As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played.TerrrdWhat was your reaction when you read that statement?
RAPINOE: I couldn’t believe it. I think I was truly sort of dumbstruck. yIt really upset me. The nerve and the audacity to say what they did in that statement – it is an honor and a privilege that we all have in this country? I don’t think so. I don’t think we do all have that in this country. So it missed th e entire point, clearly. And it was just cruel in a way. It was gaslighting, and it was manipulative, and it was cruel. But it also was very – I thought, very intentionally meant to silence me.