Photo misleads about US women’s national team’s Olympic demonstration in Tokyo

The claim: Photo shows US women’s national soccer team kneeling before its first match in Tokyo

Questions about whether athletes would protest at the delayed 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo already are being answered.

After months of debate about the Olympic governing body’s rules for demonstrations, soccer teams beginning group play in Tokyo kneeled before kicking off their matches.

The U.S. women’s national team’s 11 starters kneeled along with players from Sweden and a referee before their July 21 opening match in a pre-planned demonstration against racism and discrimination.

The demonstration drew reaction on social media, where some users mocked the U.S. team for its protest and losing the match.

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One Facebook user, though, paired its message alongside a photo that gives the false impression that some U.S. team members on the field for the match didn’t kneel during the demonstration in Tokyo. The July 21 post uses a photo from February, when some members of Team USA knelt while others stood during the national anthem before a match in Orlando.

Commenters lauded the three team members standing in the old photo. The post has been shared more than 1,800 times and drawn about 8,800 comments as of July 22.

“I’m sad for the three ladies who stood for our beautiful country that they are there to proudly represent,” one commenter said of the photo.

The user who shared the photo with the July 21 post declined to comment.

The U.S. women’s national soccer team before a match in Houston on June 10, 2021.

US women’s national team demonstrations

Some members of the U.S. women’s national team have been protesting before matches for years. But the photo used in the July 21 Facebook post misrepresents the demonstration in Tokyo.

The photo, taken by a Getty Images photographer before a Feb. 18 match, makes it appear that members of the U.S. women’s national team were split in their demonstration and that the protest occurred during a different time before the match began.

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It shows three team members standing with their hands over their hearts as the national anthem plays while teammates in the frame kneel before a match in Orlando. Media accounts of the demonstration in Tokyo, though, said all players stood for the national anthem, and all players on the field for the start of the match knelt.

The juxtaposition of the photo with the post, which mocked the team for kneeling before its 3-0 loss, confused some commenters.

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After the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, U.S. Soccer repealed a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem.

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 in solidarity with then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who touched off similar demonstrations against racial injustice across sports.

In February, shortly after the photo was taken, the team collectively announced it would no longer kneel during the national anthem.

That continued as games kicked off in Tokyo. All 18 U.S. team members stood during the anthem before the match against Sweden, according to Yahoo News.

Once the anthems were finished, starters on the field for both the U.S. and Sweden took a knee before the game kicked off. Members of the British and Chilean teams did the same an hour earlier before their game, according to the Associated Press.

Our rating: Partly false

The claim that the U.S. women’s national soccer team knelt before its first match in Tokyo is PARTLY FALSE, based on our research. While the U.S. team’s 11 starters did kneel alongside those from Sweden and a referee for the July 21 match, the photo that accompanies the claim is from February. At that time, some members of the team kneeled while others stood during the national anthem. Neither team kneeled during national anthems at the July 21 match.

Our fact-check sources:

USA TODAY, July 22, ‘Things are changing:’ Expect protests aplenty from athletes at these Olympics

Getty Images, Feb. 18, 2021 SheBelieves Cup – United States v Canada photo

The Associated Press, June 10, 2020, US Soccer repeals rule that banned kneeling during anthem

USA TODAY, Sept. 15, 2016, Megan Rapinoe kneels for national anthem before U.S. friendly vs. Thailand

The Associated Press, Feb. 24, US women’s team players to stop kneeling during anthem

Yahoo News, July 21, USWNT, other soccer teams kneel before Olympic openers to protest racism

The Associated Press, July 21, Soccer players kneel to start new era of Olympic activism

Snopes, July 21, Did US Women’s Soccer Kneel During National Anthem at 2020 Olympic Opener?

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Photo misleads about US women’s soccer Olympic protest


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