The same people who claim they’re protecting women’s sports are lashing out at the US women's national soccer team

Right-wing media are attacking the U.S. women’s national soccer team after some members stayed silent during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before their World Cup match against Vietnam — a protest which star player Megan Rapinoe has maintained for years.

On his Daily Wire show, Michael Knowles called for the team to be disbanded in its entirety, claiming, “U.S. Women's Soccer has historically been extremely left-wing and unpatriotic,” and it “doesn’t get that much viewership.” 

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Citation From the July 24, 2023, edition of The Daily Wire's The Michael Knowles Show

In reality, the exact opposite is true. The United States match against Vietnam “saw Fox average 5.26 million viewers with a peak of 6.55 million,” according to Yahoo Sports, and an additional 1 million viewers tuned in on Telemundo. “Those numbers are reportedly a 99% increase from the USWNT's opener in the 2019 tournament and the second-highest ratings for any Women's World Cup group stage game.”

This isn’t the first time right-wing media have focused their attention on members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team — in the past, they’ve been falsely accused of disrespecting a veteran, described as “unpatriotic” and “woke,” and targeted in the cross-hairs specifically for their support for LGBTQ individuals, especially trans people.

Conservative pundits regularly use women’s sports as an excuse to attack transgender athletes, arguing that the inclusion of LGBTQ people in competition is a threat to access and equality. Knowles, for example, has repeatedly invoked women’s sports to attack transgender athletes, writing on Twitter, “I don't particularly care about the sports. I care about the injustice. Women exist, they ought to be able to compete in their own sports.”

Right-wing commentators like Tomi Lahren, Sebastian Gorka, and Jenna Ellis have made similar efforts to attack trans athletes for competing — a common bad-faith argument using the sanctity of women’s sports as a shield for their anti-trans campaign. Lahren tweeted, “I don’t want to hear these confused Libs talk about ‘women’s rights’ anymore. You don’t know what a woman is. You’re not advocating for women. You don’t protect our spaces, sports, or biology.” Gorka made a point to praise a new regulation in international swimming competitions that restricted transgender athletes from performing, tweeting that he ”celebrates the international swimming board’s vote as a victory for women in sports, and for the culture war.” On Twitter, Ellis complained, “So you're a bigot for wanting to protect women's sports, but not for ruining their athletic opportunities for the sake of delusional men?” 

Now, those same conservative media personalities are abandoning their supposed defenses of women’s sports to instead attack the U.S. women’s national soccer team, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the world, for standing silent during the national anthem — with Ellis calling the players “awful representatives of America.” Other pundits and commentators on the right called the incident “shameful,” an “insult to every American,” and “an attack on our country.”

  • On Fox News, OutKick founder Clay Travis said, “This is the situation that unfortunately has been created surrounding our national anthem since Colin Kaepernick took a knee.” He added, “I wish the U.S. women would come out and say the reason why we excel is because of America’s embrace of human rights for women in a way that the rest of the world has yet to catch up to.” 
  • On his Fox prime-time show, Greg Gutfeld said, “You're watching the effects of a self-absorbed culture that made patriotic gestures seem out of place, and every day it judges our country more harshly.”
  • The far-right website Conservative Brief wrote: “‘Insult To Every American’ - USWNT National Anthem debacle Outrages Fans.” In a tweet, the site asked, “Should you be allowed to play if you hate your country??”
  • Far-right commentator and former Trump staffer Sebastian Gorka tweeted that the players “should be ashamed of themselves.” 
  • Former Trump adviser and conservative pundit Jenna Ellis shared the same article and tweeted, “They don’t deserve to play for the team. What awful representatives of America.”
  • Breitbart wrote that Rapinoe had previously “vowed to continue the protests as a ‘F*ck you’ to then-President Trump.”
  • Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton tweeted that the protest was “an attack on our country, our flag, and those who fought and died for our nation.”
  • Conservative commentator and Trump pardon recipient Dinesh D’Souza tweeted, “This is the most shameful conduct.” 
  • On GETTR, British far-right extremist Tommy Robinson wrote, “If only most of the womens American football team (not soccer) were as patriotic as the crowd…. If they don’t love the country they play for. Don’t pay them. And don’t take their whining about equal pay with the men.” 
  • Right-wing pundit Carmine Sabia tweeted, “When this batch of @USWNT are finally retired then maybe we can get some who love our nation and will sing the National Anthem.”
  • OutKick, the right-wing sports outlet owned by Fox, wrote on Twitter, “The majority of the OutKick audience is rooting against the USWNT because of many of their athletes holding very anti-American beliefs.” (Even before the match took place, OutKick suggested its readers should “root against the US women’s national team during the World Cup.” Dan Zaksheske wrote, “The US Women’s National Team does not compete for the United States. Not really. They compete for themselves.”) 
  • OutKick host Tomi Lahren tweeted, “If you won’t stand for our anthem or salute our flag, perhaps you should consider taking your ungrateful ass to another country you may respect more. So many to choose from. Bye.”
  • Lahren doubled down in another tweet, saying, “I always root for the USA but these whiny brats make it tough. I get that it’s a free country and they CAN disrespect the flag and anthem BUT that doesn’t make it right. If you hate this country then you should decline to compete with its flag and name on your jersey. Period.”
  • Anti-Islam bigot Brigitte Gabriel tweeted, “The US Women’s Soccer Team hates America, you can see it in their facial expressions and body language. They detest the National Anthem and everything it stands for. I couldn’t care less if they lose every game.”
  • Former Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones complained on Twitter, “They really should be ashamed of themselves -- why are they allowed to do this??”