US women’s soccer team deny turning away from WWII veteran during national anthem

A still shows members of the US women’s soccer team facing away from the war veteran  (Screengrab/ESPN)
A still shows members of the US women’s soccer team facing away from the war veteran (Screengrab/ESPN)

The US women’s soccer team has been embroiled in the latest national anthem controversy, after videos showed them facing away from a 98-year-old Second World War veteran before a match on Monday.

The team was competing in an Olympic send-off match against Mexico when Pete DuPré played the national anthem on his harmonica.

A video of the moment, which has since been widely shared, showed some of the members of the American line up turning to look to the side instead of forward at the war veteran, even as other team members and the Mexican team remained facing him.

Criticism started to pour in – with the incident coming after the much-debated protests of US Olympic hammer-thrower Gwen Berry.

But it turns out there was no such protest at the root of Monday’s anthem display. The US Soccer Federation has now issued a statement about the controversy, clarifying that some players were looking at a large US flag located at one end of the stadium.

“Some of the players were simply looking at the flag flowing on a pole in the stadium in that direction. They were not looking away from Pete as he played the national anthem,” US Soccer Federation chief communications officer Neil Buethe told the Daily Caller.

For some on social media, the clarification was already too late. Users were already up in arms, deeming the perceived gesture by the players to be “disrespectful” to the veteran.

“He did and awesome job. Too bad that some of the USA team that turned their backs on him do not understand what blood was shed so they could have their little protest fit!!! (sic)” a user said.

“Every woman on the Mexican Soccer Team faced the flag & sang the Mexican National anthem. Several woman on the U.S. Soccer team turned away from the US flag - while a 92 year old Veteran played the anthem on a harmonica. Why didn’t @USWNT show the women turning away? (sic)” another user commented.

The war veteran was thankfully unperturbed at the time, and welcomed with a standing ovation by fans in the stadium after he played the anthem.

The official Twitter account of the US Women’s National Team also posted a video of the opening of the game and thanked Mr DuPré for his performance.

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