An Iranian sports association plans to file an ethics complaint against the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team after it temporarily changed the image of the Iranian flag on its social media platforms in support of protesters in Iran.
On Saturday, the U.S. Soccer Federation posted photos of an altered image of Iran's flag, removing the Islamic Republic emblem, and showing only the flag's colors.
Iran's state media agency, Tasnim News Agency, called for the U.S. to be suspended from the tournament due to the post on social media.
"By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of #Iran on its official account, the #US football team breached the @FIFAcom charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty," the news outlet tweeted Sunday. "Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022."
The state media agency claimed in a follow-up tweet that the U.S. team violated Section 22 of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) rules prohibiting teams from offending the dignity or integrity of a country, a person or group of people through "discriminatory or denigratory words or actions." Violators of this rule may be subject to a fine or temporarily banned from participating in soccer-related activities.
As Tasnim News Agency reported Sunday, a legal advisor for the Iranian Football Federation, Safia Allah Faghanpour, said that the association will file a complaint with FIFA's ethics committee in response to U.S. Soccer altering the flag of Iran.
"Respecting a nation's flag is an accepted international practice that all other nations must emulate. The action conducted in relation to the Iranian flag is unethical and against international law," Faghanpour said.
As CNN reported Monday, the now-deleted graphic was posted in an image representing all countries competing in Group B for the 2022 World Cup. The group lineup includes a Tuesday match between the U.S. and Iran, which USMNT must win to progress in the tournament.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said that the team "had no idea what U.S. Soccer put out," apologizing for the display during a Monday news conference. While the coach said that the team's thoughts were with the Iranian people, he emphasized that their focus is on the upcoming match.
"Sometimes things are out of our control," Berhalter said. "We believe that it's going to be a match that the result will depend on who puts more effort in and who executes better on the field.
"We're not focused on those outside things and all we can do is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff, but it's not something that we were a part of."
In a Sunday statement to CNN, U.S. Soccer said that it changed Iran's official flag for 24 hours to show "support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights."
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department denied involvement with the show of support for Iranian protestors, stating the agency looks forward to a "peaceful and competitive match on the field."
"The United States continues to find ways to support the Iranian people in the face of state-sponsored violence against women and a brutal crackdown against peaceful protestors," the department stated.
The U.S. Soccer Team and the Iranian Football Federation did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.
As The Christian Post previously reported, the nationwide protests in Iran began after the Islamic Republic's "morality police" arrested 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for failing properly wear a hijab. The hijab is part of a dress code in Iran that forbids women from exposing their hair. Amini died in custody on Sept. 16 after she was beaten to death.
Last month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Iran after the country's response to anti-government protests reportedly resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 protesters, including at least 23 minors.
"Iran's use of excessive and lethal force against protesters asserting their religious freedom is a deplorable violation of international law for which there must be full accountability," said USCIRF Chair Nury Turkel. "Iranian protesters are asking that their voices be heard. We urge the Biden administration to support a U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Iran to ensure that Iranian security forces cannot silence Iranians seeking religious freedom with impunity."
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.