The United States women’s national team’s relationship with the national anthem has become complicated over the years. In the past, some members of the team have taken a knee as the song played prior to the kickoff of a match.
But, when the USWNT lined up on the field prior to the start of their opening 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup match against Vietnam, the majority of the team stood during the playing of “Star Spangled Banner,” although most of the players seemed to remain silent.
The entire opposing team appeared to passionately sing as Vietnam’s national anthem “Tiến Quân Ca,” or “Song of a Marching Army” was played. The players seemed to sing in unison, and all eleven athletes held their right hands over their hearts.
Six of the 11 American soccer players who stood on the field at Eden Park in New Zealand stood with the hands to their side or behind their back as the anthem played.
The remaining five players placed their hands over their hearts as the song blared throughout the stadium.
Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Lindsey Horan were seen mouthing the words to the song while the rest of the team appeared stood stoically.
A pair of crucial victories in 2022 punched Vietnam’s first-ever ticket to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The newcomers’ historic appearance on the game’s biggest stage marked a new chapter in women’s soccer in Vietnam.
Since its inception in 1997, the Vietnamese women’s national team has faced an uphill battle in the fight to gain access to the same amount of resources as the male team traditionally received. In the past, some members of the team would reportedly take on other jobs due to the low pay they received for playing on the national team.
The Vietnamese women certainly entered their first World Cup match with a great sense of pride, given what they had achieved by qualifying for the World Cup, and their passion was on full display as their national anthem played.
However, once the match began, the USNWT team’s elite talent was also on full display. The reigning two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champions defeated Vietnam 3-0 in the team’s historic game. Team USA is once again the favorite to win this year’s title.
U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe became one of the first prominent female athletes to take a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest against police brutality and social injustice in 2016.
Kaepernick began the peaceful protest on Aug. 14, 2016, before the start of a preseason game. His gesture did not garner much attention until the third time he did it prior to the start of another preseason game on August 26.
Rapinoe is playing in her final World Cup. Earlier this month, Rapinoe said she will retire from professional soccer at the end of the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season.
She has also been outspoken on a long list of social issues throughout her career including, LGBTQ+ rights, racial inequality, voter rights and gender and pay equity.
In the weeks leading up 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Rapinoe stated that she would “never put my hand over my heart” during the playing of the national anthem.
“I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again,” she said at the time.
During a 2021 match against Australia, only one member of the American women’s soccer team opted against kneeling as the “Star Spangled Banner” played.