- Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
U.S. women’s national team forward Alex Morgan spoke out against FIFA possibly bringing on Visit Saudi — the official tourism authority for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia — as a sponsor of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, which the USWNT is participating in alongside Brazil, Canada and Japan, Morgan said she found the news “bizarre.”
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“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,” she said. “I just don’t understand it.”
Teammate Taylor Kornieck added: “We obviously can’t control who FIFA partners with. But at the end of the day, U.S. Soccer, we believe in partnering with people who align with our values best.”
Reports about FIFA possibly bringing on Visit Saudi as a Women’s World Cup sponsor emerged almost a week ago. The move was made without consulting the footballing authorities in either of the host nations, Australia and New Zealand.
New Zealand Football issued a statement to Reuters which said: “If these reports prove correct, we are shocked and disappointed to hear this as New Zealand Football haven’t been consulted by FIFA at all on this matter. As FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 co-hosts, New Zealand Football and Football Australia have jointly written to FIFA to urgently clarify the situation.”
Human rights groups have also decried the possibility of Visit Saudi being brought on board.
“It would be quite the irony for Saudi’s tourism body to sponsor the largest celebration of women’s sport in the world when you consider that, as a woman in Saudi Arabia, you can’t even have a job without the permission of your male guardian,” Amnesty International campaigner Nikita White said in a statement.
Morgan hit out at the fact that Saudi Arabia’s women’s national team isn’t even ranked by FIFA due to the fact that it hasn’t played enough games, and that the Saudis’ support for the women’s game would be better served by investing in that team.
“I really hope that FIFA does the right thing,” she said. “I mean, pretty much everyone has spoken out against [the proposed sponsorship] because morally it just doesn’t make sense.”
Morgan also voiced support for teammate Becky Sauerbrunn, who wrote an op-ed earlier this week opposing legislation in Missouri that would restrict transgender girls from taking part in girls’ sports.
Sauerbrunn described the proposed bill as “hateful” for “targeting transgender athletes here in Missouri.”
“Everyone should have the ability to play sport,” Morgan said. “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’ life. It’s really sad and I feel like what Becky said was great.
“For this team, we’ve always been very vocal with where we stand and I think we’ll continue to do that. But 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 hard conversation or taking a stand for what’s right.”
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