On July 5, 2021, the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated Mexico 4-0 in their final match before the Olympic Games. While many cheered America’s accomplishment, conservative commentators started to share a video along with the claim that the team had “disrespected” the 98-year-old World War II veteran, Pete DuPré, who performed the national anthem on his harmonica.
The controversy was a bit unclear from the start. Dinesh D’Souza, for instance, claimed that the players had turned their backs on the veteran during the performance. Richard Grenell, former acting director of U.S. national intelligence, claimed that they turned their back on the flag.
Both of these messages (as well as the articles, videos, and additional tweets pushing this claim) mischaracterized the actions of the U.S. women’s soccer team.
While the video (below) does appear to show some awkward positioning (some players were facing forward while some were facing to the side), this was not a protest or a gesture of disrespect against the flag or the veteran. When DuPré began his performance, some players opted to face him, while others turned to face an American flag at the end of the stadium.
When you watch the video below, pay attention to the direction the audience members were facing behind DuPré . Many of them were angled away from the harmonica-playing veteran and toward a flag at the end of the stadium. This is the same direction that the players were facing. As the flag is a bit difficult to see in the video (since it is only shown at the far-end of the field), here’s a photograph from sports reporter Jeff Kassouf that shows the location of the flag for reference:
Hello, here's a picture from yesterday of the northwest end of Rentschler Field, where the flag poles are and always have been. Have a great Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/puo3XoD4Zm
— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) July 6, 2021
Here’s a video of DuPré’s performance of the National Anthem from ESPN:
— ESPN (@espn) July 5, 2021
Many of the people claiming that the U.S. team “disrespected” this veteran or the flag noted that the Mexican team was facing forward. It’s worth noting that the members of Mexico’s soccer team were facing their flag (in the same direction as the U.S. players) when the national anthem of Mexico was played.
The claim that the U.S. Soccer team disrespected this veteran is also contradicted by the fact that the players signed a ball for DuPré after his performance. Meghan Rapinoe, for example, who can be seen in the video facing toward the flag, not DuPré, can be glimpsed in this video signing a ball for the veteran:
Some U.S. soccer players, such as midfielder Cari Lloyd, have also disputed this claim on social media:
We turned because we faced the flag ?? https://t.co/1JJHUWGCLv
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) July 6, 2021
The U.S. soccer team also posted a statement on Twitter:
Not true. No one turned their back on WWII Veteran Pete DuPré during tonight's anthem. Some USWNT players were simply looking at the flag on a pole in one end of the stadium. The players all love Pete, thanked him individually after the game and signed a ball for him.
— U.S. Soccer Comms (@ussoccer_comms) July 6, 2021
The claim that the U.S. women’s soccer team was protesting during veteran DuPré’s National Anthem performance is not true. The players did not turn away from this veteran. They turned toward the U.S. flag.