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Alex Morgan piles on criticism of Saudi World Cup sponsorship

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team star Alex Morgan made her thoughts clear on Wednesday about FIFA’s potential partnership with Visit Saudi, the tourism advisory for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the 2023 World Cup.

“I think it’s bizarre that FIFA has looked to have a Visit Saudi sponsorship for the women’s World Cup when I myself, Alex Morgan, would not even be supported and accepted in that country,” she said in media availability prior to the SheBelieves Cup against Brazil, Japan and Canada next week.

FIFA has reportedly explored partnering with Saudi Arabia without input from 2023 host nations Australia and New Zealand, sparking outrage from human rights groups and federations alike.

“It would be quite the irony for Saudi’s tourism body to sponsor the largest celebration of women’s sport in the world when you consider that, as a woman in Saudi Arabia, you can’t even have a job without the permission of your male guardian,” Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White told Reuters.

New Zealand Football also told Reuters: “If these reports prove correct, we are shocked and disappointed to hear this as New Zealand Football haven’t been consulted by FIFA at all on this matter.”

Morgan suggested other ways for Saudi Arabia to show a real commitment to the women’s game.

“I think that what Saudi Arabia can do is put efforts into their women’s team that was just formed only a couple of years ago, and doesn’t even have a current ranking within the FIFA ranking system because of the such few games that they’ve played,” she said.

“So that would be my advice to them, and I really hope that FIFA does the right thing. I mean, pretty much everyone has spoken out against that, because morally it just doesn’t make sense.”

Taylor Kornieck, Morgan’s USWNT and San Diego Wave teammate, concurred.

“We obviously can’t control who FIFA partners with, but at the end of the day, U.S. Soccer, we believe in partnering with people who align with our values best.”

Morgan also expressed her support for USWNT teammate Becky Sauerbrunn’s op-ed, published Sunday in the defender’s hometown newspaper, the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. In it, Sauerbrunn argued that “transgender women and girls are “not a threat to women’s sports.”

“I did read what Becky said, and you know she is a true leader, not only within our team, but in standing up for trans kids and being an ally and advocate for a lot of groups who are targeted,” Morgan said, noting that the team has SheBelieves games coming up in Texas and Florida, two states that have passed bills barring transgender children from competing on teams that align with their gender identity.

Catarina Macario and the USWNT wore "Protect Trans Kids" wristbands during the 2022 SheBelieves Cup in Texas. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

“That’s something that the team definitely needs to look at,” Morgan continued. “I think just even talking about it is good. And the inclusion of trans kids in sports is the inclusion of kids in sports. Everyone should have the ability to play sport.

“The fact that it’s been taken into politics so big is really sad. And I think it’s at the cost of trans kids’ lives, so it’s really sad.”

Morgan didn’t mention whether the team has a singular message planned for their SheBelieves games in Florida and Texas, but it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve spoken out about anti-trans laws. During last year’s SheBelieves Cup, members of the team wrote “Protect Trans Kids” on athletic tape worn around their wrists for their game against Iceland in Texas.

“Looking at these games in Florida and Texas, respectively, we’re going to need to continue to step it up and have internal discussions as well with the team,” Morgan said. “Because we’re not ones to shy away from hard conversation or taking a stand for what’s right.”