Megan Rapinoe is not backing down.
The U.S. women’s soccer team co-captain is not afraid to play France. She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. And, she’s not afraid to reject the President of the United States.
A day after finding herself the focus of a critical Twitter rant by President Donald Trump, Rapinoe on Thursday told reporters in Paris that she not only stood by her decision not to visit the White House following the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, she also encouraged her teammates not to go.
“I stand by the comments I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive — my mom would be very upset about that,” Rapinoe said Thursday as her team prepared to meet France on Friday night in a World Cup quarterfinal. "Considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have and using it for good and leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place, I don’t think that I would want to go."
“And I think I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having it co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way or fight for the same things that we fight for.
“I’ll just leave it at that.”
Rapinoe’s comments came a day before one of the most anticipated games in the history of women’s soccer. The U.S. women’s team earned the right to play France with a 2-1 victory over Spain on Monday. Rapinoe scored both of her team’s goals in that game off of penalty kicks.
Two days after that win, President Trump apparently became angered by a video clip in which Rapinoe profanely declared that she and the team would not go to the White House if they won the World Cup. The comments were recorded in January and published in an online article two weeks ago. They went viral earlier this week when the online magazine Eight by Eight posted them to social media.
Trump tweeted a stern rebuke Wednesday morning, saying that “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” and adding that he is “inviting the TEAM, win or lose” to the White House after the World Cup. He also criticized Rapinoe for her refusal to sing the national anthem and put her hand on her chest when the song is played before games.
While in other sports, Rapinoe might be criticized by her teammates for shifting the focus away from her sport, the U.S. women’s team was more than ready to support her.
In fact, her comments may have actually pumped them up for the big match. The team has embraced political activism on a number of issues including pay equity for women, in and out of sports, and LBGT rights.
“In regards to the ‘President’s’ tweet today, I know women who you cannot control or grope anger you, but I stand by [Rapinoe] & will sit this one out as well,” USWNT defender Ali Krieger wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “I don’t support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable.”
When asked if Rapinoe’s comments had been a distraction to the team, coach Jill Ellis said: “We all support Megan, she knows that. We know we have each other's backs in there. I think for our players, there is only one purpose, one mission that we're here. Comments, media, whatever, it's always been something that I think we can block out pretty easily."
Rapinoe plays the game with reckless abandon, so it may come to no surprise to anyone who has watched her that she had refused to shy away from what she thought was important. The same thing that makes her a fearless competitor on the field — her refusal to be controlled or contained — makes her an unwavering force off of it.
Even before what may very well be the biggest game of her career.