It also comes as the US takes on Iran in a decisive World Cup match, already fraught with decades of enmity between the two countries and nationwide protests now challenging Tehran’s theocratic government.
The U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement Sunday morning that it had decided to forego the official flag on social media accounts to “show support for the women of Iran fighting for basic human rights.”
The United States men’s team’s Twitter account featured a banner depicting the team’s group stage matches, featuring only the Iranian flag in the colors green, white, and red. The same was seen in a post on his Facebook and Instagram accounts showing the point totals in his group so far.
By Sunday afternoon, the normal flag with the decal had been restored to the Twitter banner as attention grew for it.
“We wanted to show our support for the women of Iran with our image for 24 hours,” the federation said.
The United States Soccer Federation displayed the official Iranian flag in an image with the Group B standings on its website.
The emblem’s brief absence comes as months of demonstrations have challenged the Iranian government since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the country’s vice squad.
At least 450 people have been killed and more than 18,000 arrested since the protests began, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group that monitors the demonstrations.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations and the football federation did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. As comments raged online, Iran’s state television described the US federation as “removing the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Safiollah Fagahanpour, an adviser to Iran’s Football Federation, as saying that the “measures related to the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran violate the law” of FIFA competitions.
“They must be held accountable,” Fagahanpour said. “Clearly they want to influence Iran’s performance against the US.”
The emblem of the Islamic Republic, designed in 1980, consists of four curves with a sword in between. It represents the Islamic saying, “There is no god but God.” It also resembles a tulip or lotus.
Also on the top and bottom of the flag are 22 inscriptions of “God is Great”, honoring the date on the Persian calendar when the Islamic Revolution began.
The flag has become a point of contention at the World Cup. Apparently pro-government supporters have waved and shouted at those who demonstrated after Amini’s death. Others have waved the lion and the sun flag of Iran, an emblem of the former ruler, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, at competitions.
More security forces were seen at Iran’s last game against Wales. In the capital Tehran, riot police – the same who cracked down on the protests – waved the Iranian flag after the victory in Wales, angering protesters.