The tumultuous nature of the past year has underlined how impossible it is for high-profile athletes to avoid current events, and so it was for US national teamers with last week’s stunning invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of supporters of President Donald Trump.
The topic arose at the USMNT’s first media availability of 2021 on Monday afternoon, with head coach Gregg Berhalter and Seattle Sounders attacker Jordan Morris both expressing their dismay at the chaos in the heart of the nation’s government that led to five deaths and dozens of arrests so far.
“We all realize how horrific those events were and that there's a need for change in the country, in a lot of ways,” said Morris in a conference call with reporters. “And I think the big thing for us – and what I've talked to guys about a little bit – is hopefully our goal as a national team is to be a positive representation of what that change can be and how we need to move forward.
“Also, in these hard times we hope to be, as a team, hopefully a positive light,” added the 26-year-old, one of 12 senior players working alongside a larger Under-23 group at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, this month. “Because I know that these times are super challenging and there's so much going on, so much stress.”
Like many of their colleagues in soccer and beyond, USMNT players have responded to the turbulence of the world around them, with a range of statements and actions in support of Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements.
Along these lines, those taking part in the team’s recent matches displayed personalized messages of unity and peace on their pregame warm-up jackets, and last summer the federation itself repealed a controversial policy requiring US players to “stand respectfully” during the national anthem.
Berhalter said that while last week’s upheaval has not yet been explicitly discussed by the group in Bradenton, he supports both communication and awareness of such matters among his squad.
“The way I see this is, this is a low point for us,” he said of last Wednesday’s scenes in D.C. “There's a lot of room to improve as a country. And it is something where we can all be better examples, we can all be better citizens. And when you're watching that, it doesn't jibe at all with what we know as America to be. It's not who we are as a country, and it's disappointing to see.
“But all we can do is be good examples and continue our efforts in trying to be change, and trying to make change. And so I think that's the important message to the team, is that our work isn't done just because a year changed. We need to keep going and persevere with all of our efforts.”