‘Stick to sports’ is an admonishment often hurled at athletes presenting opinions about politics. Rather than choosing to stay silent, several US national team players expressed opinions about the executive order that President Donald Trump signed on Friday banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
The order prevents all citizens from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days and bans all refugees from coming in for 120 days while prohibiting all Syrian refugees permanently. In response, many US soccer players and US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati commented on the order.
US Men’s National Team captain Michael Bradley made two statements on the eve of the USMNT friendly with Serbia. First, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated tweeted a quote from Bradley in which he stated that ‘as a proud American, I hope we can find the right way to move forward in all this and make sure that we’re safe but also not lose so many of the things that make the country so great.’ A few hours later Bradley clarified his comments on Instagram, writing:
Bradley was not alone on the MNT in voicing an opinion about the ban. In an LA Times article by Dylan Hernandez, several USMNT players gave their thoughts about it. Sacha Kljestan, whose father came to the US as an undocumented immigrant, said “I’m very supportive of immigrants and I’m pretty disgusted with the way we’ve handled things, not as a country, but in the White House, in the last week.”
The article noted that while Darlington Nagbe, who came to the US as a refugee from Liberia, said that “he was particularly bothered” by the ban*, he went on to say that “I know the pain that they’re feeling at this moment. Moving to this country was one of the best things that happened to us.”
Greg Garza, who recently transferred from Club Tijuana to Atlanta United, spoke of what he saw on the US/Mexico border saying that “I would say the toughest image for me being in Mexico is probably going to Playas de [Tijuana] and seeing the people shaking hands or hugging from the wall,” he said. “Those are pretty tough images to see. Those are tough subjects to talk about.”
USWNT co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn tweeted asking followers to donate to the ACLU:
Go to https://t.co/rXzuvLftFX and donate now. Support the many groups and people that fight to protect our fundamental freedoms. @ACLU— Becky Sauerbrunn (@beckysauerbrunn) January 28, 2017
For her part, Megan Rapinoe, who is no stranger to political statements, tweeted an image and brief statement:
Travel day tomorrow trying to do my part. To stay silent is to stand with the oppressor. #nomuslimban That isn't my America. ✊ pic.twitter.com/yZF3AdKZ8g— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) January 30, 2017
Heather O’Reilly, who retired from the USWNT in 2016 after a 14 year career and joined Arsenal Ladies this year, made her thoughts on the ban clear:
This is absurd and unacceptable. Please donate to help. Or please call a representative. I am in disbelief hearing these stories. https://t.co/2D5cZLGTcx— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) January 28, 2017
USWNT forward Alex Morgan also took to Twitter with her reaction to the executive order:
I am in shock and disbelief over #MuslimBan. Has history not taught us anything???— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) January 28, 2017
ESPNFC’s Doug McIntyre reported that Sunil Gulati was asked about how the ban would impact the US bid for the 2026 World Cup. Gulati commented that “we're challenged by a number of things that are going on in the world. So let's see how those play out over the next few weeks before we make any decision about co-hosting or going alone or bidding at all.” Despite taking a different stance when it came to Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the national anthem last year, McIntyre noted that “Gulati also said he had no problem with U.S. captain Michael Bradley.”
McIntyre also wrote that “Gulati declined to comment when asked if the United States Soccer Federation had a public stance on the highly controversial order, which temporarily bans entry to the U.S. of all refugees and most visitors from seven majority Muslim countries and sparked protests throughout the country and criticism from some governments around the world.”
*Darlington Nagbe’s quote was mis-transcribed and edited on 1/31/17.