USWNT, Canada make dual statement in support of gender equality and ‘trans joy’

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 16: Team Canada and Team United States huddle together before the 2023 SheBelieves Cup game at Exploria Stadium on February 16, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Players from the United States and Canada gathered in a circle just before Thursday’s SheBelieves Cup game to show their solidarity amid the Canadian players’ struggle with their soccer association. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Members of the US women’s national team played their SheBelieves Cup opener Thursday night with white and purple tape around their wrists, a double show of solidarity with their Canadian opponents and with transgender people in general.

The purple ribbon was worn “in the name of gender equality”. This was announced by the USWNT players’ associationand was a nod to Canadian players’ ongoing battle with their Football Association over budget cuts and injustices.

Canada’s players also donned purple tape and wore plain purple shirts as they took to the field “as a symbol of protest”. said. On the shirts that Players had handwritten: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”

Then, just before kick-off in a game that USA eventually won 2-0, players from both teams gathered in a circle in midfield and arm-in-arm to show their solidarity even more visibly.

The white ribbon, meanwhile, carried a three-word message: “DEFEND TRANS JOY”. The game was played in Orlando, and the message was therefore broadcast in Florida, a state trying to ban gender-affirming underage childcare and one of several states that have enacted legislation nationwide targeting transgender rights – in Sport and in society more broadly.

USWNT’s message was reminiscent of a similar message it sent during a game in Texas last February. Shortly after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to treat gender-based child support as child abuse, several US players wore bracelets that read “Protect Trans Kids.”

“Denying trans children gender-affirming resources and threatening their parents and guardians with allegations of child molestation is MONSTROUS.” Captain Becky Sauerbrunn wrote on Twitter at the time.

She was still dealing with the topic a year later, before the games in Florida and Texas.

“Involving trans kids in sport is including kids in sport,” forward Alex Morgan said last week. “Everyone should have the opportunity to play sports. And the fact that it’s getting so big into politics is really sad. And I think it’s at the expense of the lives of trans children.”

Sauerbrunn also published an op-ed in the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader earlier this month to advocate for the inclusion of trans girls and women in sports. “Since I started playing football, I have faced myriad challenges to gender equality in sport, from wage differentials to unsafe working conditions,” Sauerbrunn wrote. “I can assure you that playing with or against transgender women and girls is not a threat to women’s sports.”

Canadian players also wore the white band around their left wrist and the purple band around their right wrist. They first warmed up with shirts inside out to hide the Football Canada’s logo.

They later donned the purple shirts for their formal appearance and pre-game ceremonies. All 24 players, whether active or inactive, posed for a photo. They then contested the game in their standard red uniforms.

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 16: Players from Canada pose for a photo before the game between Canada and the United States at Exploria Stadium on February 16, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, FL – FEBRUARY 16: Players from Canada pose for a photo before the game between Canada and the United States at Exploria Stadium on February 16, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Canada’s players have threatened to go on strike when their battle with the CSA, commonly known as Canada Soccer, turned ugly last week. They are furious that the CSA cut funding for the team about six months before the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The players say The budget cuts have left them with a smaller staff, fewer training sessions and an underserved youth development system, which has “compromised” their World Cup preparations.

These acute concerns have also fueled broader frustrations about how Canadian football is governed and how the CSA has treated its women’s and men’s teams unfairly.

US players have shown solidarity with Canadian players throughout the week. The USWNTPA added to that support just over an hour before kickoff on Thursday.

“Although we are now on the other side of this struggle and can focus on our game on the field,” the US players’ union wrote in its statement, citing their own successful fight for equal pay and treatment, “our colleagues in Canada and elsewhere we are witnessing the same pervasive misogyny and inequality that we faced.

“We support all women footballers by raising awareness of their collective struggle, but we also call on everyone to join and support the fight to eliminate ALL inequalities and discrimination in our sport.”

USWNT strong in 2-0 win, Canada ‘exhausted’

All of this was the inescapable context for a match between the reigning world champions and reigning Olympic champions. It could have been a proving ground for fringe players and a launch pad for their World Cup preparations. Instead, it was difficult to make a clear analysis given the emotional exhaustion that Canadian players were certainly feeling.

“I think we were just exhausted,” said Captain Christine Sinclair told reporters after the game.

But with that caveat, USA played coherently and impressively, perhaps more so than in any game since last summer.

Although Rose Lavelle, Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma and others had been out for a long time through injury, it won 2-0 with two goals from Mallory Swanson (née Pugh). His press was disruptive. His midfield, anchored by an active Andi Sullivan, was robust. His attackers created chances freely and frequently and could easily have strengthened Swanson’s brace – perhaps they should have.

Up next is a date with Japan on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, TNT, HBO Max, Universo, Peacock). But the long view is towards the World Cup, which begins on July 20. And in that respect, Thursday was promising.

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