Iranian reporters accuse USA press officer of trying to silence them after being given one question

The USMNT’s Sunday press conference saw a testy exchange between the team’s communications director and Iranian journalists, as the latter group allegedly accused the press officer of ‘silencing them’ by ignoring their raised hands.

Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman answered various questions from members of the media, but it was not until the last question of the session that they asked an Iranian journalist from Yahoo! Sports said.

And when Shervin Taheri finally got a chance to ask a question (about Reem and Zimmerman’s memories of the 1998 USA-Iran World Cup match), he added a statement at the end.

Journalist Shervin Taheri said, “I just want to point out that the media officer for the US national football team should be respectful of the international media.”

‘It’s the World Cup. This is not the MLS Cup. thank you so much.’

Yahoo! The press conference described the atmosphere as ‘tense’ and said Ream and Zimmerman were asked about a dozen questions about both football and the team’s social media posts, sparking anger in Iran.

The press conference took place as Team USA’s official social media accounts displayed the national flag of Iran without the emblem of the Islamic Republic, to show ‘our support for women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours’.

Walker Zimmerman said the team is a 'huge supporter' of women's rights during the season

Walker Zimmerman said the team is a ‘huge supporter’ of women’s rights during the season

The symbol’s absence comes as months of demonstrations challenging Iran’s government erupt since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the country’s morality police.

And the US Soccer Federation’s decision has seriously angered the Iranian government, with them calling on FIFA to pull the USA out of the World Cup and ban them for 10 games.

Communications director Michael Kammermann explained the rationale for the decision to remove the emblem early in the session.

“The intent of the post was to show support for women’s rights,” she said. It was meant to be a moment. We posted then. All other representations of the flag remain the same and will continue to be so.

The symbol was later returned to the flag on the United States website, in a tweet and Instagram post that removed the changed flag.

Nonetheless, both Zimmerman and Ream made it clear that they stood for women’s rights during the session.

Reporters ask Tim Ream (left) and Walker Zimmerman to relive their memories of the 1998 USA-Iran matchup before calling on them to 'do the honors'.

Reporters ask Tim Ream (left) and Walker Zimmerman to relive their memories of the 1998 USA-Iran matchup before calling on them to ‘do the honors’.

‘We’re a big supporter of women’s rights,’ Zimmerman said. ‘And I know the verse that has been mentioned. We didn’t know anything about the post, but we are supporters of women’s rights.

‘We always have been. We’re also very focused on Tuesday from the sports side, you know. So you mentioned it as a distraction. I think this is such a focused group on the task at hand. But at the same time, we empathize and we strongly believe in and support women’s rights.’

At least 450 people have been killed since the start of the protests in Iran, with more than 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group following the protests.

Iran now have a chance to make it to the last 16 after a surprise 2-0 win over Wales

Iran now have a chance to make it to the last 16 after a surprise 2-0 win over Wales

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Safiullah Faghanpour, an adviser to the Iranian Football Federation, as saying that “the measures taken regarding the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran are against the law of FIFA competitions”.

Faghanpur said, ‘He should be held responsible.’ ‘Obviously they want to influence Iran’s performance against America by doing this.’

The Islamic Republic emblem, designed in 1980, consists of four curves with a sword between them. It represents the Islamic proverb: ‘There is no god but God.’ It also resembles a tulip or a lotus.

There are also 22 inscriptions on the top and bottom of the flag, ‘God is Great’, honoring the date on the Persian calendar when the Islamic Revolution took hold.

The US will play Iran on Tuesday and will need a win to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament.

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