The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team posted and then deleted an image of their world cup rankings against Iran after the post drew criticism for showing the Iranian flag without the emblem of the modern Iranian government.
In a now-deleted Instagram post, the U.S. team shared an image of the Group B standings for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. On the part of the image showing Iran’s standings, the flag for Iran had the customary green, white and red horizontal stripes, but was missing the red emblem that usually sits in the middle of the white stripe on the flag.
The Iranian flag has featured a red emblem, depicting four crescents surrounding a pillar since 1980. Before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Iranian flag had featured a golden lion and sun in the central white line. The red emblem replaced the golden lion and sun after the 1979 revolution and has come to symbolize the modern Iranian government, known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The U.S. team’s Instagram post came just days before the U.S. and Iranian teams are set to face off on Tuesday.
The U.S. team’s display of the altered Iranian flag drew backlash in Iran.
The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Iranian Vice-President for Political Affairs Mohammad Dehqan had called on World Cup organizers to investigate the U.S. soccer team over the social media post and condemned the post as an “immoral” act.
The Iranian state-aligned Tasnim News Agency tweeted a screenshot of the altered flag post, and called for the U.S. team to be kicked out of the World Cup.
“By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of #Iran on its official account, the #US football team breached the @FIFAcom charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty,” the Iranian publication tweeted. “Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022.”
The U.S. Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer), which oversees the U.S. Men’s National Team, has indicated it’s alteration of the Iranian flag was deliberate and was done in support of ongoing protests in Iran.
U.S. Soccer told CNN on Sunday it chose to change the official flag for 24 hours to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights” but always planned to go back to the original flag.
Protests are ongoing in Iran following the death of a woman, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iran’s morality police in September. Amini was reportedly arrested for not wearing a hijab head covering, in defiance of Iran’s religious laws. She was reportedly severely beaten and ended up in a coma in Iranian police custody before she died.
CNN reported the U.S. men’s team’s head coach, Gregg Berhalter, said the team “had no idea what U.S. Soccer put out” with regard to the social media post. Berhalter also apologized for the display.
“The staff, the players, we had no idea,” Berhalter said on Monday, CNN reported. “. . . Our focus is on this match and I don’t want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that.”
Berhalter said, “Of course are thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, everyone, but our focus is on this match.”