Players from the U.S. women’s national team are receiving backlash from conservative news outlets, politicians and social media accounts for standing — but not singing — as the U.S. national anthem played before their World Cup opener against Vietnam.

When asked about the outsized online furor, USWNT defender Naomi Girma shut down the discourse.

I think when we’re out there, we’re preparing for the game. And that isn’t the focus,” she said. “Ultimately, every player has the choice. I think that’s what I would say.”

During the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” all 11 players stood, most of them in silence. Three of the players sang along.

The comportment of the USWNT players during the anthem, while standard for athletes at a major sporting event, has received criticism in the days following the team’s 3-0 win. The USWNT players were contrasted with U.S. men’s national team players, many of whom sang the national anthem during their 2022 World Cup games, and with their Vietnam opponents, many of whom sang their own anthem before making their country’s World Cup debut.

Yet while the video of the USWNT players spread, many fans joined Girma in dismissing the social media stir as “much to do about nothing,” as one Twitter user put it.

“Grateful to live in a country you aren’t forced to sing or have a hand on your heart. Makes it so much more meaningful when you do it. I see the choice not to just as patriotic because of that,” another wrote on Twitter.

USWNT star Megan Rapinoe has received criticism in the past for choosing to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racism in the United States, but she has spoken about her “utmost respect” for the flag as a reason behind her actions.

“I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way,” she wrote in a piece for the Players’ Tribune in 2016.

USWNT players chose to stop kneeling during the anthem in 2021 and instead to focus on behind-the-scenes actions to address racial inequity,

Sophia Smith has a U.S. women’s national team legend cheering her on as she heads to her first World Cup.

The present and future of the squad, Smith is just 22 years old. But you wouldn’t know it by the way she plays. And she will enter the tournament, which kicks off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand, with high expectations.

The reigning NWSL MVP is the first woman born in the 2000s to earn a cap for the national team — and the first born after the USWNT’s historic 1999 World Cup win.

On Wednesday, the Portland Thorns posted a photo of a younger Smith posing with USWNT all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach alongside Smith’s official USWNT roster photo.

“Did we make it? Yes we did,” the Thorns wrote in the caption.

Smith and her family no longer recall the exact circumstances behind the childhood photo, they told Just Women’s Sports reporter Eden Laase. They think it may have been at a Colorado Rapids game where members of the USWNT made an appearance. But what matters is that Smith saw Wambach and insisted on waiting in line for a photo, no matter how long it took.

“She was going to stay there until she met her,” her mother Mollie Smith said.

The photo has circulated on social media several times in the last few years. Smith posted it after her first appearance for the USWNT in 2020, acknowledging Wambach as “a big reason this moment happened for me.”

“You inspired me to follow my dreams,” Smith told Wambach at the time.

Three years later, those dreams have led Smith to the World Cup. And as one of the team’s leading scorers, they could one day see her join Wambach among the USWNT’s all-time leaders.

Wambach responded to the Thorns’ tweet Thursday, encouraging Smith: “Go on and bring that World Cup home!!!”

Before Wambach retired in 2015, she played in four World Cups with the USWNT. She secured her first title in her final tournament in 2015.