Abby Wambach: ‘Feels a Little Bit Odd’ for Foreigners to Play for U.S. National Team

Abby Wambach cited her “fiercely patriotic” beliefs in an interview in which the retired player said she does not think she could not have joined Megan Rapinoe in kneeling for the national anthem and questioned why players from foreign countries compete for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“She is stepping into her own belief system and wanting to peacefully protest for this Black Lives Matter movement, which is near to her heart,” Wambach said of former teammate Rapinoe. “Whether you agree or disagree with her choice to do it, she has the right to do it. If I was still on the team, I don’t know if I would join her in her protest, though. I’m fiercely patriotic, and the flag and the anthem is something that I really, really respect. So I don’t know if I could do that.”

Rapinoe knelt during professional games and during international play for the U.S. women’s team. She rose for the anthems of other nations. Her teammates all stood.

Wambach revisited comments about foreigners competing for the men’s national soccer team. She explained:

It feels a little bit odd to me that you have some guys that have never lived in the United States that play for the United States because they were able to secure a passport. To me, that just feels like they weren’t able to make it for their country and earn a living, so they’re coming here.

But do they have that killer instinct? I don’t know. I’d love to sit down with Mix Diskerud and some of these other guys and talk to them about it. I’d love to understand how much they love their country. I believe they can have love for both countries, but I’d love to hear it, and I think so many other people would, too. If this is an ignorant opinion, I’ll raise my hand in the end and say, “My bad.” But I’d want to have that conversation.

Wambach sparked controversy for issuing similar remarks before her retirement last year. The five-foot-eleven striker’s stature in the sport, scoring 184 goals in international play that included a World Cup triumph and two Olympic gold medals, necessarily made her opinion on the matter grab headlines. This go-around USA Today‘s Nate Scott labeled her opinion “insulting,” “embarrassing,” “ignorant,” “xenophobic,” and (again) “insulting.”

Wambach, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence earlier this year, addressed her struggles with drugs and alcohol and the increasing level of competition in women’s soccer during The New York Times interview. The former forward’s question-and-answer session stems from the release of her autobiography, Forward.


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