United States Women's National Team during World Cup Aug 1, 2023; Auckland, NZL; United States players during the National Anthem before a group stage match against Portugal during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup at Eden Park. Mandatory Credit: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, one of the biggest and loudest storylines surrounding the United States Women’s National Team had nothing to do with soccer, but whether or not some players on the team sang the national anthem before the matches. But despite the consistent media discourse, there was very little actual conversation about this controversy from those covering the event or the USWNT themselves. And it sounds like that was an intentional decision.

United States Women’s National Team beat writer Meg Linehan of The Athletic, revealed that the lack of coverage regarding the national anthem controversy was no accident. The reporters on the ground covering the team actively chose to ignore the national anthem discourse sweeping across the mainstream media in the United States.

One player was asked about the national anthem following the team’s match against Vietnam – USWNT defender Naomi Girma – but after she gave her rather simple answer of “ultimately, every player has the choice,” that was it and it was never brought up again.

“The USWNT press corps — people like me who cover this team on an everyday basis — chose not to engage in that topic because it clearly wasn’t about singing the anthem,” Linehan wrote for The Athletic this week.

Linehan pointed out that if the outrage truly was about whether or not the team sang the national anthem, people should have been upset about other United States teams remaining silent during the song – the USA baseball team at World Baseball Classic, the USA basketball team at the Olympics, or even the United States Men’s National Team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

But there was no such controversy surrounding those teams. And the reason, according to Linehan, is that people weren’t actually angry about some players staying silent during the national anthem, they just hated what the players stood for and were simply looking for a reason to speak out against them.

“The 2023 outrage has never been rational. It’s just one group shouting regardless of whether anyone is listening or not,” Linehan wrote. “It is rooted in misogyny and sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia — all the antitheses to the things this team has stood for collectively and individually.”

So Linehan and the rest of the USWNT chose not to participate in the discourse. That’s why despite all the conversation on the home front about the national anthem, there was very little written about it from those actually covering the event on the ground. Because they simply refused to engage in that conversation themselves or with the players.

[The Athletic]