- A 98-year-old war veteran played the national anthem on his harmonica before Monday’s USWNT game.
- Critics slammed the players for turning their backs on the veteran, Pete DuPré.
- In actuality, the players were turning to face an American flag on the other side of the stadium.
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The US women’s national team is embroiled in yet another controversy.
Ahead of the team’s final domestic competition before departing for the Olympic Games, the 98-year-old World War II veteran Pete DuPré played the national anthem on his harmonica for the nearly 30,000 fans in attendance at Connecticut’s Rentschler Field.
-ESPN (@espn) July 5, 2021
The USWNT’s starters were lined up side-by-side on the field adjacent to DuPré for his rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But as he began to perform, most players turned away from DuPré, which angered some viewers.
In actuality, those athletes simply turned to face an American flag flying across the stadium.
Without that added context, many people critiqued the players for disrespecting a war veteran by turning their backs to him. Some even advocated rooting against the team and tweeted hopes that the team loses.
Fat chance: The USWNT boasts a 900-day unbeaten streak.
Carli Lloyd – the longest-tenured player on the USWNT roster – pushed back against critics and disputed those claims, setting the record straight on Twitter.
-Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) July 6, 2021
The official US Soccer communications Twitter account also chimed in on the matter, noting that “no one turned their back on WWII Veteran Pete DuPré” and that “the players all love Pete.”
-U.S. Soccer Comms (@ussoccer_comms) July 6, 2021
Further evidence suggests that the USWNT players actually have a relationship with DuPré. He performed before one of their games ahead of the team’s 2019 World Cup run, and players appeared friendly with him as they interacted after Monday’s 4-0 victory.
-U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) July 6, 2021
Many of them had spent extensive time with DuPré before all that. Ahead of a matchup against France in January 2019, the entire national team at the time – which featured many of the same players on the field during Monday’s game – visited Omaha Beach to take in the site of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.
The players made the trip alongside a handful of US veterans, some of whom actually fought on those same shores where the USWNT stood 75 years later. DuPré was among them, and he even played his harmonica for the group.
The national-team players have already departed for Tokyo, where they are the heavy favorites heading into the Olympics. With hopes of becoming the first team to earn Olympic gold directly after winning the World Cup, the USWNT will kick off the tournament on July 21 with a grudge match against Sweden – which instantly became one of the USWNT’s biggest rivals after booting them from the 2016 Olympics.
The stars and stripes will round out the group stage with games against New Zealand on July 24 and Australia on July 27.