The 2022 SheBelieves Cup was like most other USWNT showings we’ve seen. Chants of “We believe that we will win” filled the air as fans embodied the confidence that girls really do run the world. It’s a mentality that the national team so often encapsulates.
This year’s tournament offered a timely setting to raise awareness against ongoing social justice issues. While cup matches took place in Carson, California, and Frisco, Texas, a transgender youth order in Texas set the stage for protest.
A war on transgender youth
On February 23, the governor of Texas officially directed state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for trans youth as “child abuse.” Gov. Abbott defined any gender-affirming surgeries and procedures, including gender reassignment and puberty-blocking, as abusive treatments.
Texas is just one of many states looking to criminalize trans identities. Arkansas, Florida, and South Dakota are also attempting to pass legislation that would ban gender-affirming treatment for minors.
In Texas, the order leaves trans youth without health care. Parents are also at risk of being investigated for neglect. The order also forbids trans student athletes from participating in sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Taking a stance on the field
With Texas hosting the final leg of the SheBelieves Cup, it was the perfect opportunity for the USWNT to use its platform to address the order.
As the USWNT players took to the pitch, multiple players wrapped tape around their wrists, bearing the words ‘Protect Trans Kids’. This statement became more noticeable when Catarina Macario scored her second goal against Iceland. Looking right at the camera, she pointed out the writing around her wrist.Embed from Getty Images
After the match, several players revealed that Megan Rapinoe notified the team of the order going into effect.
During the post-game press conference, Macario told reporters: “With the platform we have, we really wanted to show why this team is different and why we do things that are much bigger than just the game. It was to show awareness, especially since we were playing in Texas. I wanted to make sure everyone was able to see it, and it wasn’t just swept under the rug.”
Social justice is the lifeblood of the USWNT
It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the USWNT shines a light on issues that happen on a global scale.
Time and time again, fans who watch the national team are familiar with the “We believe that we will win” motto. Not only does it apply to the game at hand, but the motto also supports the team’s mission off the field.
As seen in response to Gov. Abbott’s order, the USWNT does not back down to adversity. The next generation needs to witness their role models standing up and fighting for them. And, the USWNT isn’t the only one in this fight.
Even in the NWSL, we have seen two players come out as transgender, highlighting the importance of this topic within the women’s game. Both Washington Spirit’s Kumi Yokoyama of Japan and OL Reign’s Quinn of Canada have used their respective experiences and platforms to support their communities.
Today, more than ever, people should not feel shamed or forbidden to be who they are. Instead, they should be allowed to participate in activities that positively captivate them. It’s the right for everyone — regardless of sex, race, or background — to be heard and included.
Only intolerance is the barrier.