A photo and a caption circulating on Facebook would lead social media users to believe that several members of the U.S. women’s soccer team kneeled during the American national anthem before their defeat at the delayed 2020 Olympic kick-off.

A Facebook user shared a photo on July 21 that showed eight of eleven team members kneeling. In the photo, the other three team members are shown standing with their left hand behind their back and their right over their hearts, suggesting that the national anthem is being played.

The caption reads: “Our US women’s soccer team LOST to Sweden.”

Similar posts surfaced on Twitter, with a tweet sharing the same photo next to the caption: “You just lost 3-0 to Sweden. You get that when you kneel in front of George Floyd. ”

The post was featured on its news feed as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat hoaxes and misinformation. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The captions paired with the photo suggest that the picture shows a scene from the Tokyo Olympics, but that’s not the case. A Google image search reveals that this image was from the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, held in Orlando, Florida, February 18-24.

Other fact-checkers have also debunked claims that this photo was taken at the Tokyo Olympics – and disproved claims that some teams took a knee during their country’s national anthem. They didn’t.

In their Olympic debut in 2020 on July 21, the US women’s national team lost 3-0 to Sweden. The defeat ended a 44-game winning streak for the US team, knocked out by Sweden at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and hoping to perform better against their rivals in 2020.

The US team joined four other Olympic teams, including Sweden, in a protest against discrimination and racial inequality by getting on their knees before their first game.

The Associated Press reported that the soccer players, who dropped to their knees ahead of their July 21 games, were “the first athletes to use the Olympic platform to demonstrate activism” since the International Olympic Committee changed the rules, to allow protests within limited parameters.

The rules of the IOC state that during the games, athletes are “on the field of play before the start of the competition (ie after leaving the“ call room ”(or similar area) or during the introduction of the individual athlete or team).” The IOC also stipulated that the protests should not be aimed directly at countries or individuals and should not be “disruptive”.

The guidelines continue to prohibit protests at competitions on the field, at official ceremonies including award ceremonies and in the Olympic Village.

Neither the US women’s national team nor the other four teams that kneeled to protest racism before their games appear to have broken the new Olympic rules.

Members of the teams knelt as the referee’s whistle sounded while the pre-game music continued. As the US and Swedish women’s teams knelt, NPR reported that “a referee fell on one knee with the players in midfield,” as did an assistant referee.

Yahoo! Sport specifically said: “All 18 USWNT players stood for the anthem on Wednesday. It is unclear whether a protest during the anthem would be acceptable under the new IOC rules.”

A photo on Getty Images also shows members of the U.S. women’s soccer team standing during the U.S. national anthem on July 21.

Our verdict

Posts on social media suggest that a photo shows some members of the U.S. women’s soccer team kneeling during the national anthem at the Tokyo Olympics.

In reality, the photo was taken at the SheBelieves Cup in Florida in February 2021 – not the 2020 Olympics.

Members of the U.S. women’s national team knelt on their knees before their first ever Olympic game in Japan on July 21. They stood during the US national anthem.

We rate this claim as False.