US women's soccer players were accused of turning their backs on a World War II veteran as he played the national anthem on his harmonica prior to Monday's game against Mexico.
The reigning World Cup champions were seen standing at attention before their 4-0 Olympic-sendoff win in Hartford, Connecticut as 98-year-old Pete DuPré played a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
While some players turned and faced the flag, others, such as Christen Press, remained facing forward towards DuPré. Several had their hands on their hearts, such as co-captain Alex Morgan, while another co-captain, Megan Rapinoe, kept her arms behind her back.
Photographs and video footage show that the players who turned away did so to face the stars and stripes flag at the far end of the stadium.
Team members such as Rapinoe have previously knelt in protest of racism during the anthem, but were not doing so on Monday in Connecticut. Furthermore, several players were seen clapping for DuPré after his performance and others shook his hand as they walked to their locker room before the game.
Regardless, critics on social media accused American players of attacking DuPré, the country, or both.
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US women's soccer players are being attacked over false accusations that they turned their backs on a World War II veteran in protest as he played the national anthem on his harmonica prior to Monday's game against Mexico, but the team has denied the claims
While some players turned and faced the flag, others, such as Christen Press, remained facing forward towards DuPré. Several had their hands on their hearts, such as co-captain Alex Morgan, while another co-captain, Megan Rapinoe, kept her arms behind her back. Photographs and video footage confirm that the players who did turn were, indeed, facing the flag at the far end of the stadium
Pete DuPré , a 98-year-old WWII veteran, performed the US national anthem before Monday's game, and afterwards got autographs from US women's stars like Megan Rapinoe (right)
Players for team USA exist the field after a send-off celebration and defeating Mexico during a USWNT Send-off Series soccer match at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. USA defeated Mexico 4-0. An American flag is seen perched on the far end of the stadium (circled)
Conservative Canadian pundit Ezra Levant accused the US women's team of supporting Hitler
Former acting director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, a member of Donald Trump's cabinet, refused to believe US Soccer's insistence that players were facing the flag
From the team's position at midfield, DuPré and the American flag were situated in different directions, so some faced the flag while others remained facing forwards towards the veteran . Regardless, Grenell accused the women of simultaneously turning away from both the flag and DuPré. The team followed Grenell's claims by issuing a denial
US Soccer wasted little time in denying the claims from critics on social media
'Several players turned away from honoring the US flag and the US national anthem he was playing,' tweeted former acting director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, a member of Donald Trump's cabinet. 'Not one of those who snubbed the flag & anthem tuned toward Pete. Pete was to their left. (See below). They aren't turned to him. (Every Mexican player turned for their anthem).
'#11 and #2 turned away from the US flag and the 92 year old WWII harmonica-playing Veteran who risked his life so these self-obsessed children could disrespect America,' Grenell added in another tweet referencing Press and teammate Crystal Dunn.
Grenell was mistaken about several details: Press and Dunn did not turn away from DuPré, who is actually 98 and not 92. Furthermore, the other players had turned to face the American flag at the far end of the stadium.
'We turned because we faced the flag,' read a tweet from US soccer star Carli Lloyd.
US Soccer replied directly to Grenell on Twitter, denying his accusation: 'This is not true. No one turned their back on WWII Veteran Pete DuPré during tonight's anthem. Some USWNT players were simply looking at the flag on a pole in one end of the stadium. The players all love Pete, thanked him individually after the game and signed a ball for him.'
Later, US soccer shared video of the players signing the ball for DuPré and personally thanking him.
'To be clear, no one turned their back on WWII Veteran Pete DuPré during tonight's anthem,' read a tweet from US Soccer's communications team.
In response, one man claiming to be a former veteran posted a picture of the US women's players surrounding another veteran on the beaches of Normandy, France on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019.
'This Veteran salutes you,' wrote Mike Kopack.
A tweet from The Post Millennial, a conservative Canadian online news magazine, called the US women's team behavior 'disgraceful' but Carli Lloyd explained they were facing the flag
Conservative pundit Ryan Saavedra reluctantly defended the US women's soccer team
Players for team USA react to fans during the send-off celebration after defeating Mexico during a USWNT Send-off Series soccer match at Pratt & Whitney Stadium
USA forward Megan Rapinoe (15) reacts to the crowd during the send-off celebration after defeating Mexico during a USWNT Send-off Series soccer match at Pratt & Whitney Stadium
Team members such as Rapinoe (right) have previously knelt in protest of racism during the anthem. In this picture, Rapinoe is seen kneeling alongside teammate Crystal Dunn
While the US women's team did have other defenders online, many more took Grenell's line and accused the players of attacking America.
Interestingly, several Twitter accounts belonging to conservative Canadians took aim at the US women.
'Disgraceful behaviour from some members of the US womens' soccer team as they turn their backs while 98-year-old World War II veteran Pete DuPré played the National Anthem on his harmonica,' read a tweet from The Post Millennial, a conservative Canadian online news magazine.
Rapinoe and the reigning World Cup champs will open Olympic play against rival Sweden on July 21 in Tokyo
'Members of the U.S. Women's soccer team turn their backs as a World War II vet plays the anthem,' tweeted Canadian pendant Ezra Levant. They're a disgrace, of course. But — and I'm just going by their rules here — that means they're against a guy who fought Hitler. They're literally for Hitler.'
One Twitter user with the handle '@ChinaStockPro' said he'd be supporting US opponents at the Tokyo Games later this month: 'I will now be rooting for whoever plays against the U.S. Women's soccer team. What an absolute disgrace!'
'Absolut lie,' wrote another Twitter user, who refused to believe US Soccer's denials. 'Disgraceful. None of these should play ever again for the US.'
'Ok yea I have had enough,' read another tweet. 'I'm just not going to watch. It upsets me to see them turn their backs on our anthem and flag. So I will save myself from their disrespect.'
One member of the conservative media did acknowledge that the accusations are inaccurate.
'As bad as the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is for a lot of reasons, this does not appear to be accurate,' tweeted Ryan Saavedra. 'They were facing the flag near the scoreboard and several of the women that turned had their hand on their heart so it's hard to argue they were being disrespectful.'
The US opens Olympic play against rival Sweden on July 21 in Tokyo.