The U.S. women's soccer team national anthem controversy isn't at all what you think it is

Let's start with the facts.

Last night, the U.S. women's soccer team played against Mexico's women's team at a game held in Hartford, Connecticut. Before the match, 98-year-old WWII veteran Pete DuPré played the national anthem on the harmonica. Some of the women on the team turned to face the American flag that was flying at the end of the field during the performance. Some of the women remained facing forward—toward Dupré, the same direction he was facing. All stood silently, some with their hands on their hearts, some with their hands clasped behind their backs.

Those are the facts. Nothing about any of those actions should have been controversial. And yet, we now have countless Americans rooting against the U.S. National Women's Team because they believe some players either turned their back on a veteran or turned their back on the flag.

The manufactured controversy came swift and hard from the "anti-wokeness" crowd, who boast huge followings on social media. I won't share the posts themselves as I don't think viral lies should get more traffic, but fact-checker Daniel Dale's screenshots offer a taste of the lies being pushed, including from the former Acting Director of U.S. National Intelligence.



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That's just a small sampling. There are also comments galore on these posts as well as the ESPN post above with people railing against the team, hoping for them to lose, accusing them of disrespecting the country, the flag, and/or the veteran performing.

Athletes have demonstrated during the anthem before, of course, which they have the right to do. But that's not what happened here.

Some of the outlets that ran with the story issued quiet corrections. Some of the influencers who tweeted their outrage added "updates," which most of their followers will never see (instead of just deleting their original tweets and issuing new ones explaining that they were wrong and don't want to be part of spreading misinformation).

U.S. Soccer issued a statement clarifying the situation, which shouldn't have been necessary because we can see with our own eyes what actually happened. And even with the video clearly showing what happened, people are still responding with claims that the players were disrespectful.

Perhaps it's a bit of a Sophie's choice to be presented with a veteran playing the anthem facing one direction and the American flag facing a different direction, but no one can seriously claim that facing either one of them during the anthem is disrespectful.


It's not the "which way should you face in this situation" that's the real controversy. It's the claim that "they turned away from the flag" or "they turned away from the veteran while he played the anthem," when it's clear that no one actually "turned away" from anything. They were all facing the direction of the veteran to start off with. Some chose to turn toward the flag when the anthem started playing. If you look at the audience in the video, it's the same thing—some people are facing the flag and some are facing the veteran who is performing.

It's just baffling how many people are still claiming that team members were being disrespectful, even in the face of clear video evidence to the contrary. It's like the story they heard and chose to believe got stuck in their brains, making it impossible for them to see anything else.

We can disagree on ideas and ideologies and discuss them all day long, but people can't just create their own reality. I firmly believe that we can sit down and work out—or at least work through—our various perspectives and beliefs when we at least agree on the facts. But we can't debate ideas if they are based on alternate realities that aren't actual realities.

If you tell me "BLM protesters burned Portland, Oregon to the ground!" I don't see how we can discuss racial injustice in a meaningful way, because your belief about the Black Lives Matter movement is not based on fact. If you tell me that the COVID vaccines are more dangerous than COVID, or that they turn you magnetic, or that they contain microchips, then we can't discuss the merits of public health measures because what you believe is objectively, verifiably, indisputably false.

America's biggest problem is not that we lack shared values or that we are divided over ideas, even if we are. The bigger, more dangerous divide is reality vs. unreality and facts vs. "alternative facts." Unfortunately, we have a whole slew of media personalities who excel at using falsehood to manipulate people's outrage and fuel the misinformation machinery that makes them gobs of money. And we have too many people who can't seem to discern a fact from a hole in the ground and who refuse to admit when they get the objective facts wrong.

It's like the old parable of the blind men describing an elephant differently depending on what part of the elephant they're touching. Sharing their various descriptions based on their individual perspectives add up to a fuller picture of reality, right? But what if one of those men insisted that what he's touching isn't actually an elephant, but an ostrich? That person's perspective loses its value immediately. You can't discuss a perspective that's based on a falsehood.

The information age requires digging through muck and mire of misinformation, and we all get it wrong sometimes. But if we don't do the digging for the truth before forming and expressing an opinion and if we don't thoroughly correct our mistakes after the facts are made clear, what are we even doing?

We can deal with different beliefs, we can discuss our diverse opinions, but we can't coexist in separate realities. It just can't work. We have to insist on objective truth as the baseline for everything else, or we'll never be able to discuss our perspectives on reality in a way that might actually move us forward as a society.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."