Megan Rapinoe salutes the crowd after Thursday's semifinal victory over England. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

LYON, France — A day after watching the Women’s World Cup semifinal from the sideline with a hamstring injury, Megan Rapinoe stepped back into the spotlight Wednesday with an impassioned defense of her comments and actions about politics and patriotism.

Speaking to reporters outside the U.S. national team hotel, Rapinoe answered criticism about, among other things, not singing the national anthem before matches and saying, with an expletive, that she would not visit the White House should the Americans win the championship again.

Asked by a reporter what she would say to those who considered her actions un-American, Rapinoe said:

“I’m particularly and uniquely and very deeply American. If we want to talk about the ideals we stand for, the song and the anthem and what we are founded on, I think I am extremely American. For the detractors, I would have them look hard into what I am actually saying, the actions I am doing. Maybe you don’t agree with every single way I do it, and that can be discussed. I know I am not perfect.”

Rapinoe has been particularly outspoken about President Trump and her efforts to improve human rights. Several teammates have spoken in her defense.

“I think I stand for honesty and for truth and for wanting to have the conversation,” Rapinoe said. “Looking at the country honestly and saying, ‘Yes, we are a great country, and there are many things that are so amazing, and I feel very fortunate to be in this country.’ I would never be able to do this in a lot of other places. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get better. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always thrive to be better.”

Rapinoe also raised the history of slavery in the United States.

“This country was founded on a lot of good ideals, but it was also founded on slavery. We just need to be really honest about that and be really open about talking about that . . . so we can reconcile that and hopefully move forward and make this country better for everyone.”

On soccer matters, Rapinoe reiterated that the hamstring strain that prevented her from playing in the 2-1 semifinal victory over England has improved and she expects to be available for Sunday’s final at Stade de Lyon. In her absence, though, Christen Press scored the first goal and helped set up the second one.

Asked about criticism of Alex Morgan’s tea-sipping goal celebration against the English, Rapinoe said: “Wah, wah, wah. We’re at the World Cup. I don’t think anyone truly believes we disrespect the game or our opponents. What do you want us to do? We work hard. We like to play hard. ”

Read more:

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Analysis: The U.S. women’s national team is fearless. It showed again against England.

Sally Jenkins: The USWNT is after something far more subversive than just better pay

Perspective: Rapinoe tackles Trump comments and then moves on. It’s not in her to sidestep.

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