“I’ll just address it head on and then we can get to the soccer questions,” Rapinoe, the team’s 33-year-old co-captain and its most outspoken Trump critic, said Thursday in Paris as she opened a news conference with U.S. Coach Jill Ellis. “Obviously a lot of news recently. 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.
“But I think obviously [I was] answering with a lot of passion, 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 that I would want to go, and I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having that co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t fight for the same things that we fight for.
"So I’ll just leave it at that and I’m not interested in answering any of those [non-soccer] questions. We can get to the real reason we’re here, which is a huge game.”
Asked later by another reporter about the controversy, Rapinoe declined to revisit the subject.
Facing what is likely to be the sternest test of this tournament, the coach of the defending World Cup champions isn’t worried that the controversy with Trump will distract her players.
“I mean, I think the personality of our players, I wouldn’t say it’s the norm, but it’s kind of part of the makeup of the players,” Jill Ellis said. “They’re elite people that live on a stage and are always probably under scrutiny. But I think this team has remarkable focus. We all support Megan. She knows that. We have each other’s backs in there, and I think for our players, there’s 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. You know, I’m not around them all the time, so I don’t know what they’re kind of posting or saying, but at the end of the day, on the training ground, in the meeting rooms, the focus has been phenomenal, and I think we’re just genuinely excited.”
The uncertainty over whether a U.S. national team would visit the White House at all became embroiled in controversy in recent days. Rapinoe said, “I’m not going to the f------ White House,” in a video clip that was recorded in January as part of a larger interview with Eight by Eight and posted online by the magazine earlier this week. “No, I’m not going to the White House. We’re not going to be invited. I doubt it.”
Trump delivered a swift, stern rebuke, tweeting Wednesday morning 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.
Rapinoe does not sing with her teammates during the playing of the national anthem and has said, “I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.” That is a sore spot for Trump, who added that “Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!”
Trump’s response came in a Twitter thread in which he originally misspelled Rapinoe’s name and used an incorrect Twitter handle — which was later corrected — for the 33-year-old, while also mentioning NBA owners (the league prefers the term “governors”), criminal justice reform and “Black unemployment.” The tweets read:
“Women’s soccer player @mPinoe just stated that she is ‘not going to the F . . . ing White House if we win.’ Other than the NBA, which now refuses to call owners, owners (please explain that I just got Criminal Justice Reform passed, Black unemployment is at the lowest level ...
“in our Country’s history and the poverty index is also best number EVER), leagues and teams love coming to the White House. I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job! We haven’t yet ...
“invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose. Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!”
Ali Krieger came to Rapinoe’s defense, tweeting that she “will sit this one out as well. I don’t support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable.”
Star forward Alex Morgan has also said she has no intention of visiting the White House, telling the Hill last month that she doesn’t “stand for a lot of things the current office stands for.”
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