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Oct 15 2016
by Tyler Bingham

Xenophobia in Sports: Abby Wambach's Comments About Dual-Nationals Are Shameful

By Tyler Bingham - Oct 15 2016
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There have been few things as sad as finding out Abby Wambach, one of the most recognizable figures in US Soccer, is a xenophobe. 

Abby Wambach is one of the most successful women's soccer players and an inspiration to millions of young female athletes in the United States and abroad. This makes her comments about dual-nationals on the US Men's National Team (USMNT) that much more embarrassing. 

If you don't already know, Wambach has made xenophobic comments before. Last year, she blasted USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann over his use of dual-nationals by calling them "foreign guys"

One thing should be made clear before we proceed with this article: these athletes are not "foreign guys". 

In most cases, the wave of German American/European American athletes Wambach is criticizing have fathers who were stationed in Germany while serving this country.  They are just as American as you or I.  

However, apparently one string of xenophobic comments was not enough for Wambach. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Wambach once again said some pretty terrible things.

"I’d love to sit down with Mix Diskerud and some of these other guys and talk to them about it [lacking a 'killer instinct']. I’d love to understand how much they love their country. I believe they can have love for both countries, but I’d love to hear it, and I think so many other people would, too."

I for one am sick of it. Who is Abby Wambach to question someone else's love for the United States? 

US Men and Women's players give up time from their professional careers to play for the Stars and Stripes. Mix Diskerud, Jermaine Jones and others put their bodies on the line for this team and country. 

Mix Diskerud quickly responded to Abby's comments:

However, this issue goes so far beyond than the two most recognized national soccer teams in this country.

I'd like you to meet Patrick Shea (@PatrickRyanShea & @USADeafSoccer). He is a proud member of the United States' Deaf Men's National Team. He is not only a skilled defenseman, proudly representing our country, but a dual national.

@PatrickRyanShea via Twitter

Fresh U reached out to Shea for his thoughts on Abby Wambach's comments:

"I didn't choose to be born in Germany. My father didn't choose to live in Germany while serving in the U.S. Army. He married my mom who's a German citizen. But I did choose who to play for and knew I could be an asset to the USA team with my European football experience. I represented the USA just like my father did in the military. My mom supported me in my decision and I had my dreams come true because of it."

It is this kind of hateful rhetoric from our national icons that normalizes xenophobia and divides us. 

Unfortunately, Abby isn't alone in her xenophobia. 

Syracuse Women's Tennis Player Gabby Knutson told Fresh U her thoughts on Wambach's comments, and being a dual national collegiate athlete. 

"On many college tennis teams, there are actually more international players than American. I am lucky to be a part of a team where there is only one American, and all of my other teammates are international along with me. As a half Czech-half American, I believe I have an edge, because I am able to look at both countries as a native citizen, and choosing my likes and dislikes from each. I am bonded with my teammates through our different cultures, something that brings us together as we learn each other's different languages for fun, but I am also able to fluently speak English, thus making my transition to college life in the states much easier."
cuse.com, Michael J. Okoniewski

Knutson also responded to Fresh U about the suggestions from Abby Wambach that only American born American athletes can feel proud to represent the United States in sports.

"As someone that has been told only 'true Americans' can feel proud to represent their country, I strongly dislike yet another person saying this. I believe that every person has their own right to feel the way they do about a country, and it should not matter whether you were born in that country or choose to affiliate yourself with it. In the future I would be ecstatic to represent the United States, because I deserve to be proud of the country I love, even if I am not as native as others say I should be."

It should never be okay to question the "Americanness" of other citizens. It sets a horrific precedent. Whether we like it or not, professional athletes are role models, and can strongly influence young people. This makes Wambach's comments particularly infuriating and dangerous. 

We do not need more people poisoning our youth with xenophobia, Abby. 

We already have enough of it with the current presidential election.

Lead Image Credit: Headlocker via Wikimedia Commons

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Tyler Bingham - Niagara University

Tyler Bingham, a freshman at Niagara University, plans on double majoring in English and Political Science. Aside from waiting in line at Starbucks, hanging out with friends and reading is how he spends most of his time. Instagram: thetylerbingham

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