USWNT Star Naomi Girma Responds to Criticism Over Team’s Silence During National Anthem at FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The 23-year-old football star confronted the criticism at a press conference on Monday, addressing the decision of the majority of her team to refrain from singing the national anthem during the World Cup opening ceremony.

Only three players, specifically Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, and Lindsey Horan, were observed silently mouthing the lyrics of the song at Eden Park in New Zealand on Saturday.

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.

Is it possible for someone to teach the @USWNT the lyrics to the ‘Star Spangled Banner?’

“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, the players received praise from others for remaining silent, including one Twitter user who expressed gratitude for living in a country where singing or putting a hand on your heart is not obligatory. They believed that the choice to not participate in these gestures can also be seen as a patriotic act.

In November 2022, during their opening World Cup game against England, Iran’s football team decided not to sing their country’s national anthem. The team maintained their silence throughout the anthem while some Iranian fans jeered at them. Other fans in the crowd held up signs displaying the message, ‘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 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.”

Naomi Girma’s response to the criticism over the USWNT’s silence during the national anthem at the Women’s World Cup reflects the team’s commitment to using their platform for social good. It highlights the importance of athlete activism in initiating discussions about pressing issues that affect society.

While opinions on silent protest may differ, it is essential to recognize that athlete activism plays a vital role in shaping public discourse and driving positive change. By engaging in thoughtful and respectful dialogue, we can strive for a more inclusive and empathetic world.

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