First the U.S. women’s soccer team knelt. Then they were knocked flat.
Sweden ended a 44-game unbeaten streak for the Americans on Wednesday in a 3-0 victory in the opening round of the women’s Olympic soccer tournament, according to ESPN.
The United States came into the match ranked first in the world. Sweden is ranked fifth.
Sweden handed the U.S. a defeat in the 2016 Olympics, one the U.S. team had hoped to avenge Wednesday. In April, Sweden had battled the U.S. team to a 1-1 draw.
Prior to the beginning of the game, the U.S. team — which has made left-wing protests a part of its pre-game activities — and Sweden knelt in a gesture to protest racism, Yahoo Sports reported.
Although in past Olympics, protests were not allowed, this year, players are allowed to protest before or after an event, although not during competitions.
In covering the game for The New York Times, Andrew Das wrote in summing up the first half, where Swede took a 1-0 lead, “If it feels unusual to watch the United States get bossed around for a half, well, it should. It doesn’t happen often.”
“[T]he U.S. attack has been invisible, and because of that the defense just can’t seem to get its footing and shrug off the pressure, which has been relentless,” he wrote.
After Sweden scored its third goal, fellow Times reporter Andrew Keh wrote, “Sweden is in complete control, after all. This feels out of reach for the United States and will be a stunning result for a team widely expected to win the gold medal.”
Megan Rapinoe told the Times that as she watched the first half from the bench, she wanted “to put a mirror in front of everyone and say: ‘Relax. We’re good.’”
“We got our a–es kicked, didn’t we? I thought we were a little tight, a little nervous, just doing dumb stuff,” Rapinoe said after the game, according to NBC Sports.
Rapinoe was among the leaders in pushing for players to kneel before games as a sign of protest.
In a June interview with NPR, Rapinmoe was asked what the flag and nation meant to her.
“I see American pride or at least my personal pride or what I think that the flag should mean is, like, an impossible standard in which we are always trying to get to. Like, we’re not there. We were never there,” she said.
“First of all, the country was, you know, founded not on freedom and liberty and justice for all. I think we can just start to be very honest with ourselves about that. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have some of those qualities and that we can work towards some of those qualities.
“But this country was founded on chattel slavery and the brutal and ruthless system of slavery. So let’s just, like, all be really honest about that.
“So when I look at the flag, what I want to see is us constantly trying to live up to these words and live up to this ideal where all people are free and all people do have all of their rights – and all people can have a life filled with liberty and justice for all and who, you know, work hard and have a good life and all of these things. But, I think, we just so clearly have so far to go. And so I see patriotism as constantly demanding better of ourselves,” Rapinoe added.
During that interview, she spoke about winning.
“[W]e do win a lot. So that is what you become accustomed to. But it’s – it goes deeper – we win a lot because we really, truly, deep down believe that we’re going to win,” she said.
“We don’t care if we’re down 4-0. We will never give up,” the player added. “[W]e just focus on winning and never giving up. I think it’s more of the never giving up part.”
After the loss to Sweden, the U.S. moves on to play New Zealand on Saturday and Australia next week.