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Fox Sports And Fox News Have Split Narratives On Women’s World Cup

  • Fox Sports paid $425 million for the 2019 and 2023 Women’s World Cups.
  • One urges Americans to watch the USWNT, while the other calls them unpatriotic.
Women's World Cup
Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Corp.’s split personality has been on vivid display during the 2023 Women’s World Cup. 

On the one hand, the company’s Fox Sports network has been urging Americans to watch and support the U.S. women. At the same time, its Fox News channel has been frequently ripping many of these same players as pampered divas, too unpatriotic to sing the U.S. national anthem. 

Fox is paying close to $500 million for the U.S. English Language broadcast rights to men’s and women’s World Cups through 2026. Heading into this year’s edition, Fox Sports’ red-white-and-blue marketing campaign featured a traveling statue of star forward Alex Morgan as the Statue of Liberty.

The network also debuted a “stars and stripes powered” TV commercial touting the USWNT’s bid for a third straight World Cup title. The tagline: “USA vs. The World.”

But in the alternate universe inhabited by Fox News, some of the players are the bad guys. After many of the USWNT players failed to sing, or hold their hands over their hearts, during the pre-game rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Fox News was not happy. 

Especially as viewers saw the players from Vietnam proudly belting out their own national anthem.

“Majority of USWNT remains silent as national anthem plays prior to Women’s World Cup opener against Vietnam,” read the headline on FoxNews.com

Jesse Watters, co-host of “The Five,” ripped Megan Rapinoe for saying she’d welcome trans women to the U.S. national team.

While Watters praised Rapinoe as  a player and a leader, he declared her opinions are “destroying” women’s sports. “As someone that’s been an advocate for women, as she has, financially, she should understand that better than anybody,” Watters said.

Clay Travis of Outkick went on Fox to rip Rapinoe as “cowardly” for conveniently taking the stance on trans players just before her own retirement.  Fox-owned Outkick argued its not un-American to root against the U.S. women’s national team.

Alex Morgan ranks first at $7.1 million, followed by Megan Rapinoe.

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It’s almost an exact replay of Fox News’ playbook during the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Not to mention reminiscent of the debate over Colin Kaepernick and other athletes kneeling for social justice.

To be fair to Fox News, the network was far from the only outlet criticizing the team’s seeming lack of patriotism. Not to mention fans who shared their own disappointment on social media.

If anything, it shows there “really is a legitimate separation between what you see on Fox Sports and what you see on Fox News,” Tom Jones, senior media writer at Poynter.org, told Front Office Sports.

“Clearly, Fox Sports has done a pretty good job of really separating itself from the political opinions on Fox News,” he said.

The good news: Fox Sports’ TV numbers have been solid as the USWNT goes for a historic three-peat. Even the team’s 0-0 draw — which kicked off at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday night — against Portugal averaged 1,354,000 viewers and was the network’s most-watched overnight telecast ever (between 3-6 a.m. ET).

The USWNT’s three Group Stage telecasts averaged 4,345,000 viewers, up 11% from 2019, and was the most-watched Group Stage ever on U.S. English language TV.

The bad news: Their second-place finish in Group E knocked them out of the primetime TV windows in the U.S., so the team’s next match against Sweden on Sunday will air at the less-than-ideal 5 a.m. ET slot.

If favored Sweden wins, Fox faces the daunting prospect of broadcasting the rest of the World Cup without the box office draw of the USWNT.

Fox Sports Facing Prospect of World Cup Without Big Draw of USWNT

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August 3, 2023

Meanwhile, straight-talking Carli Lloyd has emerged as the breakout star of Fox Sports’ coverage. Lloyd spoke for many fans when she noted the USWNT was lucky to make it out of the Group Stage.

If Portugal striker Ana Capeta’s shot hadn’t ricocheted off the post, the U.S. women’s team would have been done, noted Lloyd, who blasted her old teammates for dancing on the field after playing poorly.

“The player of the match was that post. You’re lucky not to going home right now,” said Lloyd.

“The former USWNT midfielder turned Fox Sports analyst has been as hard-nosed and ruthless as a broadcaster as she was on the field, where she won two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals,” wrote columnist Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post. “Lloyd has dished out blunt, searing criticisms of her former team’s lack of drive and intensity. The 41-year-old questioned everything from the lineup to their will to win — with the packed punch you expect from talking heads, but rarely get.”

There was the inevitable blowback against Lloyd for not “supporting” the USWNT. To her credit, she didn’t apologize

“I want people to understand I care deeply about this team. I poured my heart and my soul into this team for 17 years,” Lloyd said.

Good for Lloyd. I hope she keeps telling it like it is.

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