The U.S. Women's soccer team sparked controversy during the opening match of the World Cup last week when some players chose not to sing the national anthem. The stoic demeanor and silence displayed by certain team members during the anthem drew criticism from conservative pundit Megyn Kelly, who called their behavior "disgusting."
Images from the US team's first group match against Vietnam showed that while the Vietnamese players sang along to their national anthem with hands over their hearts, only a few American players joined in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Kelly expressed her belief that the players' actions were tied to a particular brand of feminism that fosters anti-American sentiment and suggested that some members of the team view being a feminist and an empowered woman as synonymous with hating one's country.
You can hear what she said in the video below.
“I really do believe their version of what a feminist is, what it means to be an empowered woman, at least as an American woman, means you need to hate your country. It means to go out on the national stage and embarrass yourself and your country by not singing the national anthem.”
"For several of them, not even holding their hands over their hearts when the national anthem played, that was a bridge too far.”
“They couldn’t be bothered to actually place their hand on their heart as the national anthem played, as they stood out there representing you and me and the country and our military and people who have given their lives for the country that they represent."
“It was too much of an effort [for them] to place their hand over their heart, or God forbid, sing.”
Kelly attributed the team's behavior to the influence of Megan Rapinoe, an outspoken star player who has previously expressed political views on various issues. Rapinoe had previously stated that she would not stand for the national anthem.
Rapinoe—who has made headlines for condemning GOP-led legislatures for attempting to legislate transgender people out of public life and especially school sports—did not start in the match against Vietnam but that didn't stop Kelly from ranting about her anyway.
“[Rapinoe] said she’ll never stand again for the national anthem, this [team behavior] is clearly, I think, as a result of her influence, and it’s disgusting."
Many have criticized Kelly for her remarks.
The U.S. Women's soccer team has often used its platform to advocate for social and political causes, which has generated both support and criticism. The players have been at the forefront of discussions surrounding gender equality and representation in sports.
However, the decision of some players to remain silent during the national anthem has sparked debate about the appropriate way for athletes to express their views while representing their country on an international stage.
Prominent conservatives like Kelly have become more incensed about the issue in recent years and denounced athletes like Colin Kaepernick who've refused to stand for the national anthem ahead of games to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.