STORY: A now-deleted graphic of the Group B standings posted on Saturday across U.S. Soccer’s official Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts displayed a plain green, white and red flag.
Iran has been gripped by protests since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death in September while in police custody after her arrest for flouting the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
The intent of the posts was to “show support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights”, U.S. Soccer media officer Michael Kammarman told a news conference on Sunday (November 28). Players were not consulted on the decision to alter the flag.
The social media post dominated much of the questioning during the news conference.
“Yeah I think we’re huge supporters of women’s rights and I know the post like I mentioned, we didn’t know anything about the post but we are supporters of women’s rights. We always have been,” Zimmerman said.
Ream added the team were focused on Tuesday’s vital match, despite the off-field issues swirling around the fixture.
“What we’re doing as a team is supporting that (women’s rights) while also trying to prepare for the biggest game that this squad has had to date. And so, that is, in this moment, our focus. Supporting them, supporting the women’s rights, and also preparing for what is a crucial game for our group.”
The banner on U.S. Soccer’s Twitter page was also changed on Saturday to feature the flag without the emblem. It was changed back 24 hours later to the banner they had been using during the tournament.
Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency said the Iranian Football Federation will file a complaint against U.S. Soccer to the FIFA Ethics Committee for “disrespecting the national flag” of the Islamic Republic.
Iranian leaders have accused the United States and other foreign adversaries of fomenting the protests in which Iranians from all walks of life have mounted one of the boldest challenges to the theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Washington has imposed sanctions on Iranian officials over the crackdown on protesters.
The United States and Iran will face off in a decisive Group B clash with their place at the World Cup on the line, in a match which was already freighted by decades of enmity between the nations.