An Iranian reporter attempted to bait U.S. men’s soccer team captain Tyler Adams — during a pre-game press conference on Monday in Qatar — into saying something derogatory about race relations in his home country.
Scolding Adams for mispronouncing “Iran,” the reporter then asked whether the team captain — as a biracial man — was comfortable representing the United States when racial discrimination was still a thing that was happening.
🎙️ La rueda de prensa más incómoda de lo que llevamos de Mundial.
🎥 Tyler Adams contestó una de las preguntas a un periodista iraní sobre el racismo en Estados Unidos.
— Relevo (@relevo) November 28, 2022
“You say you support the Iranian people, but you’re pronouncing our country’s name wrong. Please, once and for all, let’s get this clear,” the reporter began. “Are you okay to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against Black people in its own borders? And we saw the Black Lives Matter movement over the past few years.”
“My apologies on the mispronunciation of your country,” Adams replied, adding, “There’s discrimination everywhere you go.”
Adams went on to praise the United States for continuing to make progress, saying, “One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in different cultures, is that in the US, we’re continuing to make progress every single day.”
“I grew up in a white family, with obviously an African-American heritage and background as well. I had a little bit of a different cultures, and I was very easily able to assimilate in different cultures, so not everyone has that ease and the ability to do that,” Adams said, before thanking the reporter for helping to educate him.
“Obviously, it takes longest to understand and through education, I think, is super important. Like, you just educated me now on the pronunciation of your country. It’s a process. I think as long as you see progress, that’s the important thing.”
When the reporter asserted that Adams “supported” the Iranian people, he was apparently referencing The United States Soccer Federation’s earlier move to show support for Iranian women.
The federation shared a graphic laying out the Group B standings that included the Iranian flag —edited to show only the colors and not the emblem of the Islamic Republic. According to U.S. Soccer, the intent was to post the graphic as a show of “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”
Once the graphic was posted, however, Iranian state media called for the United States to be kicked out of the ongoing competition.
“By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of #Iran on its official account, the #US football team breached the @FIFAcom charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty. Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022,” Tasnim news agency tweeted on Sunday.
By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of #Iran on its official account, the #US football team breached the @FIFAcom charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty.
Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022 pic.twitter.com/c8I4i4z3Tv
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) November 27, 2022
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter apologized, saying that no one on the team had any idea that the federation planned to do that. “The staff, the players, we had no idea … Our focus is on this match and I don’t want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that,” Berhalter said. “Of course are thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, everyone. But our focus is on this match.”