World Cup

San Diego Wave Star Alex Morgan Criticizes Potential Visit Saudia Arabia Women's World Cup Sponsorship

Forward Alex Morgan also said the U.S. national team should have internal discussions about playing exhibition games in states that restrict transgender kids from participating in sports

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San Diego Wave star Alex Morgan, who knows more than most about the Women's World Cup, talked to reporters on a conference call Wednesday about a possible sponsorship deal between FIFA and Saudi Arabia's tourism authority for the upcoming Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer.

The U.S. women's national team is currently preparing for the SheBelieves Cup, a round-robin tournament with Canada, Brazil and Japan that starts next week.

Steph Yang of The Athletic discusses the USWNT’s quest to three-peat and why it feels like a transition point for U.S. women’s soccer.

Both the Australian and New Zealand soccer federations have decried the move because of Saudi Arabia's human rights record, especially when it comes to women and LGBTQ individuals. Women's rights in Saudi Arabia are restricted under strict male guardianship laws and homosexuality is illegal.

“I think it’s bizarre that FIFA has looked to have a 'Visit Saudi' sponsorship for the Women’s World Cup when I, myself, Alex Morgan, would not even be supported and accepted in that country, so I just don’t understand it," she said. “I think that what Saudi Arabia can do is put efforts into their women’s team that was just formed only a couple of years ago and doesn’t even have a current ranking within the FIFA ranking system because of the few games that they’ve played.

"So that would be my advice to them. And I really hope that FIFA does the right thing.”

FIFA has not commented on the possible sponsorship deal.

In her first year of playing for San Diego, Morgan was the recipient of a major National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) award. Morgan, who plays forward for the San Diego Wave FC, was honored with the 2022 NWSL Golden Boot after finishing as the league’s top scorer in the regular season. The star athlete scored 15 goals and two assists in 17 games — a career-best since joining the league in 2013, SD Wave said.

Morgan Supports Transgender Kids in Sports

Also on Wednesday, Morgan said the U.S. national team should have internal discussions about playing games in states that restrict transgender kids from participating in sports.

U.S. women's national team matches are scheduled in Florida and Texas, two states that have enacted laws aimed at transgender athletes.

“Looking at these games in Florida and Texas respectively, we’re going to need to continue to step it up, and have internal discussions as well with the team, because we’re not ones to shy away from a hard conversation or taking a stand for what’s right,” Morgan said Wednesday.

The U.S. women have previously criticized efforts to limit transgender kids from playing organized sports. Last year during a game in Texas, several players wore wristbands that said “Protect Trans Kids.”

The team has often used its platform to call attention to social justice, most notably the successful fight for equal pay with the men's team. More recently, players have been vocal about reproductive rights.

Defender Becky Sauerbrunn wrote an op-ed last week for the Springfield News-Leader in her home state of Missouri defending the rights of transgender athletes. State lawmakers there are considering legislation to restrict transgender girls from taking part in girls sports.

“Playing in Florida and Texas, that’s something that the team definitely needs to look at," Morgan said, "I think just even talking about it is good.”

“The inclusion of trans kids in sports is the inclusion of kids in sports. Everyone should have the ability to play sport. And the fact that it’s being taken into politics so big is really sad. And I think it’s at the cost of trans kids’ lives," Morgan said. "It’s really sad, and I feel like what Becky said was great. And for this team, we’ve always been very vocal with where we stand and I think we’ll continue to do that. ”

Sauerbrunn wrote that if lawmakers truly cared about women's sports, they would be looking at sexual abuse and harassment of players in the game, as well as equal opportunities and resources for women and girls in sport, particularly in marginalized communities.

“The Missouri I know, love and grew up in is where I was taught to care for my neighbors, and where I learned that the best part of sports is belonging to a team and working together toward a common goal," Sauerbrunn wrote. "I can’t stay quiet as transgender youth in my home state are targeted simply because they love sports as much as I do. I want every young person to have the same opportunities I’ve had to live their best life, exactly as they are.”

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