US Women’s National Team star, Naomi Girma, has responded to the criticism over her team’s silence during the national anthem at the Women’s World Cup.
The football star, 23, addressed the backlash during a press conference on Monday, after the majority of her team decided not to sing “The Star Spangled Banner”, while it played at the opening of the World Cup.
At Eden Park in New Zealand on Saturday, only three players were seen mouthing the song: Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, and Lindsey Horan. Since then, fans have continued to criticise the American team, with claims that they were a “disgrace” for “refusing” to sing.
When asked about her thoughts on the online controversy at Monday’s press conference, Girma expressed that each player can decide if they want to sing the anthem at the game or not.
“I think when we’re out there we’re preparing for the game, and that isn’t the focus,” she said, referring to the song. “So ultimately, every player has the choice.”
Over the weekend, many people were quick to question the American players for their silence during the anthem, with claims that they weren’t representing their country at the Women’s World Cup.
“Can someone teach @USWNT the words to the ‘Star Spangled Banner?’” one tweeted. “Their silence was deafening.”
“No one should be allowed to wear the American flag, and represent the US if they don’t believe in it. Most of them don’t even know the words. An international embarrassment,” former New York City Police Commissioner, Bernard Bailey Kerik, added.
Meanwhile, other people applauded the players for staying silent, with one tweeting: “Grateful to live in a country where you aren’t forced to sing or have a hand on your heart. Makes it so much more meaningful when you do it. I see the choice not to just as patriotic because of that.”
This isn’t the first time that a football team has opted not to sing their country’s national anthem. In November 2022, Iran’s football team maintained their silence throughout the anthem in their opening World Cup game against England. During the event, some Iranian fans mocked the team, while others held up signs saying, “Woman, Life, Freedom”.
The players’ decision came in support of anti-government protests in Iran at the time, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in September 2022. Amini, 22, had been detained by morality police for allegedly breaking the strict rules around head coverings.
Meanwhile, American football star Megan Rapinoe has been vocal about why she chose not to sing during the national anthem. In September 2016, she made headlines for following in NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s example by taking a knee during the national anthem, to help raise awareness of racial inequality and police brutality. One month later, she wrote an essay for The Players Tribune to explain the decision.
“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street,” she wrote. “But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache.”
She continued: “There is no perfect way to protest. I know that nothing I do will take away the pain of those families. But I feel in my heart it is right to continue to kneel during the national anthem, and I will do whatever I can to be part of the solution.”
In 2019, Rapinoe also revealed, during an interview with Yahoo Sports, that she would “probably never sing the national anthem again”.
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