The USWNT has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason—they have come home with the World Cup in hand for the second time in a row, fourth time total. This is a time of immense pride and celebration for women’s soccer in America, culminating in the Ticker Tape parade in NYC on Wednesday. However, not everyone is happy with the team.
Namely, Megan Rapinoe has been getting a lot of wrongful hate recently for her comments regarding Trump. When asked by a reporter whether she was excited to go the White House if her team won gold, she responded, “I’m not going to the f***ing White House.”
The internet exploded. While many supported her sentiment, others were outraged. She was deemed unpatriotic and un-American. People argued that politics and sports should be separate, and that a visit to the White House was not a condonation of policies.
I disagree with this sentiment entirely. First, politics and sports have been intertwined for years, from Jesse Owens to Billie Jean King to even Tom Brady. Sports has been a key part of many social movements and can often be inherently political.
In fact, players have been refusing visits to the White House even before Trump took office. Michael Jordan spent the day golfing rather than meeting with President H. W. Bush. Matt Birk, a center for the Ravens, refused to meet with Obama following pro-choice statements the president made at a Planned Parenthood event. James Harrison, a player for the Steelers, skipped two visits to the White House under two separate presidents because he did not feel a need to go and thought it was not a big deal. Three players from the 1973 Miami Dolphins team refused to meet Obama when he honored the team on their 40th anniversary because they did not support the administration.
In addition, Rapinoe is not the first or only championship winner to refuse a visit to the Trump White House. The Virginia Cavaliers rejected their invitation earlier this year. Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger, both players on the USWNT, have come out and stated that they will not visit the White House if invited, and it seems unlikely that the team as a whole would make the trip.
Second, to me, it is clear that Rapinoe’s actions were actually incredibly American. This country was built on people standing up for what they believe in and holding their ground. It is not disrespectful to the country, or even to the president, to refuse to go to a symbolic ceremony at the White House due to moral opposition. Instead, it shows a love for one’s country, a love that causes them to protest the harm that policies are causing.
As Rapinoe said herself in a message to Trump, “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you...You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone.” She was anything but disrespectful, and made it clear that she had real, moral objections to what the president has been doing.
Many of the USWNT players, including Megan Rapinoe, are openly part of the LGBTQ+ community and do not want to meet with a president that does not support them. All of the players are women (obviously) and Trump is misogynistic and has not shown respect for women in many of his comments and actions, especially with the dozens of women who have made sexual assault allegations against him. These players do not want to meet with or show any sort of support for someone who does not respect them or what they stand for. This is admirable; the decision to stand up for what you believe in, rather than attend a ceremony in your honor, is something that should be celebrated, not hated.
All this is to say: this is not a new idea. This is not something just Rapinoe is doing, or something that is just happening under Trump. Choosing not to meet with the president due to moral opposition is not disrespectful and actually shows a deep love for one’s country. To want better, to think that Americans deserve better, is more patriotic than attending a ceremony.
In fact, the hate-filled, homophobic, misogynistic, and downright ignorant statements that have been made about Megan Rapinoe are what is unpatriotic and anti-American. Before people come out and spur feelings of resentment over Rapinoe’s refusal to sing the national anthem or go to the White House, they should examine their own actions first.