Penalties and Politics: A Look at the USWNT

Penalties and Politics: A Look at the USWNT

Despite their dominance throughout their history, the US women’s national team has been harshly criticized for its loss in this year’s World Cup. But is the criticism all about the team’s performance?

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, hosted by New Zealand and Australia, was a huge success as it captured the hearts and minds of football fans across the globe. It came to a spectacular end, with Spain emerging triumphant in a thrilling final against England. The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) crashed out in the first knockout round, losing to Sweden in a penalty shootout. Having won the last two World Cups, expectations for the USWNT were high — making their early elimination all the more disappointing and heartbreaking. As one of the best teams in the world, they will be able to bounce back from this. Something they shouldn’t have to overcome, though, is their own country. The wave of harsh, degrading, politically motivated backlash the USWNT experienced following their loss is unacceptable and must be addressed.

The inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in 1991 and has been played every four years since then. A total of 9 World Cups have been held, and the USWNT has won a record four times — finishing in the top three on four other occasions. The USWNT has been dominant in the World Cup, in stark contrast to the men’s team, whose third-place finish in the 1930 World Cup still stands as their best finish to date. Yet, the rhetoric when the USMNT loses is jarringly different from that used when the USWNT loses. Media news outlets and personalities’ comments have branded the entire team as anti-American for their recent World Cup performance. Some of the milder comments include calling the entire team “far left wing politics-laden,” labeling players as “openly hostile to America,” and celebrating their loss.


Their message is simple: “WOKE EQUALS FAILURE.”


The harsh criticism is mainly motivated by what the USWNT stands for. The team has been vocal about equal pay for women in sports and successfully won a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. They support the LGBTQ+ community by sporting rainbow numbers and armbands, speak out against police brutality, and have been critical of key Republican figures like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. As a result, their loss serves as an opportunity for right-wing figures to denounce everything the USWNT has fought for and spread their own ideals. Their message is simple: “WOKE EQUALS FAILURE.”  It has little to do with sports or the USWNT’s performance in the World Cup, but because of the international spotlight on the USWNT due to their excellence, they are still able to grab media coverage for those ill-informed ideas.

Some of the milder comments include calling the entire team as “far left wing politics-laden”, labeling players as “openly hostile to America”, and celebrating their loss.

It is acceptable to point out faults regarding the team’s performance; however, personal attacks on the USWNT and its players are neither fair nor ethical. If we disparage their losses, then we should celebrate their successes as well. The USWNT should continue to use their platform to advocate for social justice, and we should stand behind them as they work for the greatest goal of all: equality.