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U.S. forward Sydney Leroux, whose dual citizenship has made her a lightning rod for Canadian soccer fans' abuse, has released a statement saying that she has been the target of racial taunts in the past but not at Sunday's match against Canada in Toronto.
Leroux, a second-half substitute, scored the last goal in the 3-0 U.S. win in the final seconds of stoppage time and defiantly tugged on the U.S. badge on her jersey to respond to fans who had been booing her every time she touched the ball. The British Columbia-born Leroux then raised her index finger to her lips in a shushing motion. She was slapped with a yellow card for the gestures.
After the match, Leroux said the hostile reception fired her up, and did not mention any specific language directed at her from the stands. But Monday morning, she tweeted: "When you chant racial slurs, taunt me and talk about my family don't be mad when I shush you and show pride in what I represent. #america.''
She clarified that experience in a statement received by ESPN.com from U.S. Soccer on Monday afternoon.
"My tweet from this morning wasn't in response to anything from yesterday's match at BMO Field," the statement read. "In fact, the atmosphere at the stadium was a positive step forward for women's soccer. Unfortunately, the type of abuse I have received in the past and via social media for my decision to play for the United States is a step backwards. That is what prompted my response in the heat of the moment.
"It is sad that people are inclined to write these incredibly negative comments, but I am not going to focus on them moving forward. Racism has no place in our beautiful game and we all need to come together to make sure no players are subjected to this kind of treatment in stadiums or on social media anywhere in the world. That said, the majority of fans have been extremely positive and I appreciate their support."
Leroux, 23, was a member of the U.S. team that won the Olympic gold medal last year in London, and scored a goal in the quarterfinal against New Zealand. The U.S. team's controversial overtime semifinal victory over Canada injected new vigor into a historical rivalry heavily tilted toward the United States. Leroux competed for UCLA and currently plays for the Boston Breakers of the new National Women's Soccer League.
According to the U.S. Soccer statement, Leroux, whose mother is Canadian and father is African-American, "has endured abuse both verbally and in social media" since she decided to represent the United States on the women's national team in 2008. She had previously played for teams in the Canadian development system.
"The racial slurs to which she referred in the tweet occurred during the 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Vancouver in January of 2012 and revolved around her father,'' the statement said. "At the time, she chose not to address them.
"Since the match yesterday, she has received a significant number of tweets that contained racial slurs, and her tweet this morning was in response to the last year and half in which such abuse has occurred more frequently.''At the Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver, B.C. in early 2012, the New York Times reported that Leroux was called "Judas" and "traitor" by fans there.
Leroux's demonstrative actions after she scored Sunday drew a virulent response from many Canadian fans and media, including the analysts calling the game for Sportsnet, Craig Forrest and Gerry Dobson.
"Oh, she's really full of class, isn't she?'' Forrest said sarcastically. "You know what? You can have her.''
Dobson said, "That's called rubbing it in," and Forrest added, "That's way too American for me. ... You know what she is, the word class ... classless."