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Lynn Williams: ‘Unfathomable’ for critics to question USWNT dedication

(Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Lynn Williams called it “unfathomable” for anyone to question the dedication to the U.S. women’s national team.

The historic Round of 16 exit has been met with backlash of all kinds, including some critics questioning the team’s commitment to the game. Among the loudest voices is USWNT great and Fox Sports analyst Carli Lloyd, who said the team’s mentality and culture had changed in the years before and after her 2021 retirement.

Williams, though, pushed back against bad-faith critics of the USWNT. As the 30-year-old forward wrote in an Instagram caption: “Sometimes, soccer can be cruel.”

“We sacrifice so much for this game: Time away from our families, tearing our bodies apart, and a billion other things that most people will never understand,” she continued. “For our dedication and reasoning for wearing the crest to be questioned is unfathomable.”

Players also faced criticism for standing, but not singing, as the U.S. national anthem played before its World Cup matches, which kicked off the politicized discourse surrounding the USWNT at this World Cup. From there, the taunts spiraled, including complaints about the team’s post-match celebrations, marketing deals and more. Former president Donald Trump blamed the team’s elimination on current President Joe Biden, noting that many of the team’s players were “openly hostile to America.”

Even soccer analysts, particularly Lloyd and her Fox Sports counterpart Alexi Lalas, have fed into the narrative. Instead of discussing the team’s on-field issues after the Round of 16 loss to Sweden, Lalas decided to criticize what he deemed “polarizing” politics and behavior from the USWNT players.

Rather than focusing on the very real tactical issues for the USWNT, the loudest critics have blamed players’ personal opinions. Instead of analyzing their play, people are attacking their humanity.

Perhaps The Athletic’s Meg Linehan put it best in her column on the backlash the USWNT has faced.

“The 2023 outrage has never been rational. It’s just one group shouting regardless of whether anyone is listening or not,” Linehan wrote. “It is rooted in misogyny and sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia — all the antitheses to the things this team has stood for collectively and individually. … Becoming too ‘woke,’ whatever that means, certainly didn’t hurt them this time, just as it didn’t help them when they won in 2019, or even in 2015.”

None of the outside voices, though, have stopped Williams from being “proud of this team” and focusing on what is really important.

“When things weren’t clicking, we came together to find a solution. It worked,” Williams wrote. “From the sidelines our performance against Sweden was beautiful to watch, from the field it was a joy to play. That was us. Playing freely and finding our joy again. Unfortunately, soccer can be cruel.”

Williams is “proud of all I have done,” she continued, as a girl who didn’t grow up in the youth soccer system “and who had to fight, scratch and claw her way onto this team of elite and powerful women.”

“I hope my story can inspire even just one person to not take ‘no’ for an answer and to keep fighting even if you feel overlooked and under appreciated,” she said. “To wear this crest is always and honor and a privilege.”