United States players echo Bradley, speak out against Trump order

The U.S. captain's views on new government policy were shared by his teammates, some of whom come from families of immigrants and refugees.

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SAN DIEGO -- Michael Bradley spoke out against President Trump and his anti-Muslim moves on the eve of the Americans' initial outing in Bruce Arena's second stint as U.S. national team coach.

After Sunday's 0-0 draw with Serbia at Qualcomm Stadium, Bradley’s United States men’s national team teammates followed suit, praising their captain’s comments, delivered Saturday in an interview and on his Instagram page, and expressing their disdain for an executive order designed to keep foreigners from seven Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all predominantly Muslim nations, are barred from entering the country for 90 days. Refugees are blocked from entering the country for 120 days, with Syrian refugees barred from entry the U.S. indefinitely.

At one point, I was a refugee, and my mother was a refugee. So I can only imagine. I mean, I know the pain that [refugees are] feeling this moment.

- Darlington Nagbe

It's a new era for the men’s national team, a positive one, it seems, with Arena looking to steer them to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The new era for the U.S.A.? More contentious.

“I support Michael, and we have a great group,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya told FourFourTwo following the encounter. “This team is the epitome or diversity in America and what America's all about. So I stand by my captain.”

Sacha Kljestan also lauded Bradley's remarks, Darlington Nagbe described what it's like to be a refugee, and Greg Garza expressed hope his wife, a Brazilian with a green card, would have no trouble when she returns to the U.S. next month with their son.

“I agree 100 percent with what Michael said,” said Kljestan, a first-generation American whose father sneaked into the U.S. from Canada after escaping Yugoslavia during Josep Broz Tito's reign. “I think he took a strong stand and the right stand.

“Even today, I play against Serbia, the country of my father, who came to the U.S. illegally himself and built himself a life here. America is the land of opportunity, and I don't think we're the type of country that should shut our borders to anybody. I think we should welcome everybody here to our soil to live the American dream.”

Bradley didn't go that far when he condemned Trump, first in an interview with Sports Illustrated and then on Instagram, after the president's executive order temporarily restricting entry to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.

“I get this idea that there are people who think for the time being we as a country need to think about ourselves and the security of our country first and foremost. As a father of two young children, I can understand that,” Bradley told Sports Illustrated. “But, ultimately, I truly believe the United States is a country that has always been about welcoming people from all over the world and giving them an opportunity for a better life, an opportunity they otherwise wouldn't have.”

Afterward, Bradley went further, noting that when asked about Trump's so-called Muslim ban, “I gave an answer where I tried to make it clear that while I understand the need for safety, the values and ideals of our country should never be sacrificed. I believe what I said, but it was too soft.”

“The part I left out is how sad and embarrassed I am,” he wrote. “When Trump was elected, I only hoped that ... President Trump would be different than the campaigner Trump. That the xenophobic, misogynistic and narcissistic rhetoric would be replaced with a more humble and measured approach to leading our country. I was wrong. And the Muslim ban is just the latest example of someone who couldn’t be more out of touch with our country and the right way to move forward.”

Bedoya, a first-generation American whose parents came to the country from Colombia, said he was saddened “to hear the rhetoric here that has become so divisive in this country.”

“To me, it's kind of disappointing to see what's out there, all this kind of political bullshit,” said Bedoya, who played seven years in Europe. “Sorry for the language, but I mean this guy talks about banning [refugees] -- a 'temporary' ban, whatever you want call it -- [and] you're splitting up families. It's a humanitarian-type thing.

I saw Michael's comments yesterday, and they were clearly heartfelt. How this plays out in terms of international [soccer] events, I think that's, frankly, a secondary issue right now.

- U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, on Trump's effect on the bid to host the 2026 World Cup

“I have a teammate here, Darlington Nagbe, whose parents had to flee Liberia because of civil war. My first year in Sweden, I lived with a Somalian refugee. To hear the stories that they told! When you really think about it, it's very dangerous when you label a whole group as terrorists or as harmful people. What happened to separation of church and state? You see today he says Christians are going to take precedent [in the acceptance of refugees], or something like that. Just the rhetoric.”

Nagbe has concerns, too.

“At one point, I was a refugee, and my mother was a refugee,” he said. “So I can only imagine. I mean, I know the pain that [refugees are] feeling this moment. When we moved to this country [on a visa, after escaping to Sierra Leone], it was one of the best things that ever happened to us, and me just being here, being able to represent the country is a dream come true for myself and my mother and my entire family.

“You know, hopefully everything gets cleared out and everyone's able to go about their day and chase freedom and try to pursue their dream, just like I did.”

From refugee to national team. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

From refugee to national team. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Garza, who has spent most of his pro career in Mexico, said he's “not too much into politics,” but he's got some worries.

“My wife is Brazilian. She's a darker[-skinned] person,” he said. “She's in Brazil right now, and she has a little white kid with her, and I'm hoping she can get in the country safe [next month], coming back from Brazil. Those are my only thoughts right now, that they don't give her a hassle. ... I'm hoping she can get back in the country safe.”

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, asked how Trump's rhetoric and moves impacted his job and the possibility the U.S. will bid for the 2026 World Cup, said he supported Bradley.

“I saw Michael's comments yesterday, and they were clearly heartfelt,” he said at halftime. “How this plays out in terms of international [soccer] events, I think that's, frankly, a secondary issue right now. The issues involving the executive order and the implications are far broader than that ... I have lots of thoughts on those, but today let's stay with sports.”

He said U.S. Soccer had “absolutely no issue whatsoever” with Bradley's comments.

Arena said he'd not seen Bradley's remarks, but “unless I'm mistaken, you're allowed to voice your opinion in this country, right?”

It can be difficult to stay optimistic. Every day there's something new.

“It's not easy sometimes,” Bedoya said. “With the rhetoric being so divisive and so negative, it's like we're going into the dark days or something.”

Said Kljestan: “It's been tough, but I still am optimistic and hopeful that President Trump will do a good job ... There's no other way to look at it. I've never been a negative person. I'm just hopeful. I have hope for the future, and I hope for the best, and I hope that always good will win out.”

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Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.