U.S. soccer’s Gregg Berhalter and Tyler Adams navigated a tense press conference ahead of their Tuesday match against Iran – a do-or-die situation for the Americans.
Adams was asked about discrimination against Black people in the U.S. and was swiped for pronouncing Iran as “Eye-ran” instead of “E-ran.” Berhalter faced questions about U.S. immigration and naval policy.
A reporter from Iran’s Press TV chastised Adams for the pronunciation of Iran and then asked, “Are you OK to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against Black people?”
“My apologies on the mispronunciation of your country,” said Adams, who is Black and grew up in a White family. “That being said, there’s discrimination everywhere you go. One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilating to different cultures, is that in the U.S. we’re continuing to make progress every single day.”
Berhalter faced a question about the U.S. military being in the Persian Gulf.
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“Sport is something that should bring nations closer together and you are a sportsperson,” a reporter asked. “Why is it that you should not ask your government to take away its military fleet from the Persian Gulf?”
Berhalter made clear he didn’t know enough about the geopolitical climate to talk about U.S. military maneuvers or immigration policies given that he’s a soccer coach.
“I don’t know enough about politics, I’m a soccer coach,” he said. “I’m not well versed on international politics so I can’t comment on that.”
Berhalter did apologize for social media posts from the U.S. Soccer Federation that left the Islamic Republic emblem off the Iranian flag for a day. Iran called on FIFA to kick the U.S. out of the World Cup over it. The posts were meant to support protesters in Iran.
“We had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out,” Berhalter said. “All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.