Megan Rapinoe Doesn't Back Down to Anyone, President Trump Included
PARIS — No apologies, no distractions.
Anyone who thought Megan Rapinoe might back down after President Trump turned his Twitter rage on her, or wondered if the U.S. women would be rattled by it all, doesn’t know either very well.
If anything, this just fires them up even more.
Already scheduled to join coach Jill Ellis for a news conference Thursday to preview the quarterfinal game against France on Friday, Rapinoe didn’t duck it after President Itchy Twitter took issue with months-old comments about visiting the White House and her even older stance on the national anthem.
“I stand by the comments I made about not wanting to go to the White House – with the exception of the expletive, my mom will be very upset about that,” Rapinoe said.
“But … considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have and using it for good and for leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place, I don’t think I would want to go. And 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 and doesn’t fight for the same things that we fight for.”
Rapinoe asked that other questions be about Friday’s game, which has been widely anticipated since the draw in December, and she declined a request to elaborate on the reasons behind her peaceful protests.
But she and Ellis both took questions on what impact this has had on the team, especially one that has spent the past 2½ weeks talking about the “bubble” they’ve created.
“We all support Megan. She knows that,” Ellis said. “For our players, there’s only one purpose, one mission here. Comments, media – it’s always been something we can block out pretty easily. I’m not around them all the time, so I don’t know what they’re posting or saying. But on the training ground, the meeting rooms, the focus has been phenomenal.”
It helps that none of this is new. Well, aside from a president whose focus should be on solving a humanitarian crisis at the southern border, easing tensions with Iran and resolving a trade war with China getting bent out of shape at the opinions of a soccer player.
Such is the world we live in, however.
But Rapinoe’s views are well-known to all of her teammates – and anyone who has heard her speak for, oh, 30 seconds or more.
Rapinoe began kneeling for the national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick, to draw attention to the pervasive racism that continues to plague our society. When U.S. Soccer changed its bylaws to require athletes to stand, Rapinoe stopped singing or putting her hand on her heart.
The issues that prompted her protest in the first place persisted, so she would, too. Besides, Rapinoe is a lesbian, and Trump and his administration have made a point of trying to strip back rights of the LGBTQ community.
Gender equity has also been the signature issue of the U.S. women’s team for some 20 years now, and the current team is suing U.S. Soccer for discrimination. For anyone to have been surprised that Rapinoe wouldn’t want to go to the White House, or that she’d have strong feelings about Trump, is playing dumb.
“We have an incredibly strong dressing room,” Rapinoe said. “Obviously everyone knows who I am. I didn’t make the comments at a press conference here. They were made months ago, and are just resurfacing.
“If anything,” she added, “it just fires everybody up a little bit more.”
If Trump thought he could bully Rapinoe and, by extension, the rest of the U.S. team ahead of their most important game at the World Cup, he miscalculated. They’ve never backed down to anyone, and they’re not about to start now.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.