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The USWNT helped usher in a new era of Olympic activism overnight in an unprecedented moment in Tokyo, but the team has also received some brazen backlash from back home.
USWNT had their 44-unbeaten game shattered after losing 3-0 to Sweden in their opening match of the Tokyo Olympics campaign.
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However, just like the Matildas before their match, the USWST made a historic stand with the majority of the starting XI kneeling before the whistle.
The gesture, to raise awareness for racial injustices, follows the Olympics relaxing its historically strident rules on protests during the Games.
But, instead of being praised for the historic moment on the world stage, the USWNT copped plenty of unwarranted criticism.
There was uproar on social media after fans saw images and many believed the players had taken a knee during the national anthem.
However, this was not the case.
Regardless, fans corrected those who were ill-informed, or were still outraged and praised the act as a step in the right direction.
The US players didn’t kneel during the anthem. Here’s a picture. The teams kneeled together after both anthems were finished and just before the kick-off. Spreading lies doesn’t make your argument better. pic.twitter.com/PoXWtG8Xh2
— Christian Christensen (@ChrChristensen) July 22, 2021
Women's #Olympic soccer ream took a knee before their #Sweden match. BUT: not during anthem, so no problem. The issue has always been anthem disrespect. The #USWNT ladies may do whatever they wish at other times when permitted: https://t.co/MLCYuGLuSi
— Mark Davis (@MarkDavis) July 21, 2021
Sweden’s national team did the same.
USWNT go on to lose 3-nil and they call it “karma.” Lmao
I shouldn’t be surprised by the fake outrage but it’s still astonishing to me how these group of people can be so dumb
— J (@JuxnLRC) July 21, 2021
All 18 USWNT players stood for the anthem on Wednesday. It's unclear if a protest during the anthem would be acceptable under the new IOC rules. (National anthems aren't played before many Olympic events — only afterward, during medal ceremonies.)
kneel was b4 game
— Jeffrey Goldstein (@goldy_13) July 21, 2021
All of this yapping from you and it wasn’t even the US national anthem that was being played. Both teams including the refs kneeled. The anthems are only played doing award ceremonies which this was nothttps://t.co/nO0bfb5QUf
— Kizzy🖤💛⚖️‼️ (@KizzyMae1969) July 21, 2021
If you’re happy the #USWNT lost today because they kneel in support of BLM or because they are fighting for equal pay… you’re a loser 🤷🏼♀️
— Cassandra (@cass_wade) July 22, 2021
On the field, Sweden routed the US team in an extremely impressive performance.
The Americans, ranked World No. 1 and the favourites to win gold in Tokyo, were riding a 44-match unbeaten streak heading into Wednesday's match.
Sweden, World No.5 and who also bounced the Americans from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarter-finals, took a first-half lead when Blackstenius' header found the net.
Blackstenius scored again in the 54th minute, beating goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, as the Americans continued to struggle. Lina Hurtig then scored in the 72nd.
The loss was the first for the United States under Andonovski, who took over when former coach Jill Ellis stepped down following the team's World Cup victory in France.
Matildas join nations in historic Olympic gestures
In the opening game of the tournament, the Great Britain women's football team took a knee with their Chilean counterparts before the whistle.
Later on, the USWNT and the Sweden team took a knee.
When it came to the Matildas' game, the bench could be seen gripping the Aboriginal flag during the national anthem.
And instead of taking a knee at the whistle, the Matildas opted for a different show of activism.
The Matildas showed why they are adored in the nation with the team linking arm-in-arm before the whistle.
Meanwhile, in a planned move, New Zealand took a knee.
Then in a beautiful moment, for the world to see, the Matildas came together to fly the Aboriginal flag just moments before kick-off.
The protest, which was described as a show of togetherness, follows the Olympics relaxing its historically strident rules on protests during the Games.
The gesture was widely praised and will go down as a special moment in the Australian Olympic archives.
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