Two days after winning the United States’ second consecutive World Cup title and record fourth overall, co-captain Megan Rapinoe was ready to declare this year’s squad the best women’s soccer team ever.
“With all respect to every team that’s come before, I just think the game has gone so much further than it ever has,” Rapinoe said Tuesday on ESPN. “It’s at the highest level all around the world. I think we’re constantly pushing ourselves and being pushed by every other team, and the game just continues to get better. It’s hard to compare eras — I think every sport has that — but I think we at least have a good argument.”
During a wide-ranging interview with Jeremy Schaap in New York ahead of Wednesday’s ticker-tape parade along Broadway, Rapinoe and her teammate, Alex Morgan, also addressed their recent back-and-forth with President Trump.
Before the World Cup, Rapinoe, who does not sing during the playing of the national anthem, referred to herself as a “walking protest when it comes to the Trump administration.” She drew the president’s ire when a video clip recorded in May of her saying “I’m not going to the f------- White House” was published the day after the U.S. advanced to a quarterfinal match against France.
In a series of tweets, Trump responded, “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."
Trump added: “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!”
“I think we know who won that,” Morgan said Tuesday, when asked to put the political backdrop of the team’s fourth title in perspective.
“I held up my end of the bargain on that one,” Rapinoe agreed.
Later on Tuesday, in an interview with CNN, Rapinoe was asked what her message to Trump would be, were she to offer it to him directly.
“I think that I would say that ‘Your message is excluding people,’ ” replied Rapinoe, who is openly gay. "'You’re excluding me. You’re excluding people that look like me. You’re excluding people of color. You’re excluding, you know, Americans that maybe support you.”
“I think that we need to have a reckoning with the message that you have, and what you’re saying about, ‘Make America great again,’ ” she continued, looking at the camera. “I think you’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone. It might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world.
“And I think that we have a responsibility, each and every one of us — 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.”
Rapinoe won both the Golden Boot award, given to the tournament’s top scorer, and the Golden Ball award as the World Cup’s most valuable player. She scored six goals in all, including the game-winner on a penalty kick in Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Netherlands.
“I see it as a positive thing,” Rapinoe told ESPN of her back-and-forth with Trump. “I think when it was happening, we did keep a really tight bubble and the whole group was so supportive of me, but it did feel, like, positive in a way. Obviously, I think the tweets were negative in tone, as he usually does, but I think that we just . . . realized in that moment we’re so much more than what we are on the field. I think this team really understands, and is so prideful, that we do carry with us other people when we step out on the pitch. It’s the game, of course, and we want to win, but knowing the impact that we have already had, and knowing the impact that we were gonna have when we came home, the motivation of just that alone is incredible.”
A day after the U.S. advanced to the final, Rapinoe responded to some of her critics by saying she was “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,” she told reporters. “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.”
On Tuesday, Rapinoe reiterated her team’s role in representing the country.
“I think obviously we are very lucky to wear the shirt and to represent America in a way that no team really does,” she said on ESPN. “We’re very lucky, we play all kinds of games all year long, and I think we do an incredible job of representing every American.”
In addition to being outspoken about President Trump, Rapinoe joined her teammates in bringing attention to the pay gap that exists between men’s and women’s sports throughout the tournament. Three months before the World Cup began, members of the U.S. women’s team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, for gender discrimination.
“Just moving forward, I think we really want a collaborative approach with U.S. Soccer,” Morgan said Tuesday. “I think we’re very optimistic about that. They’ve done an incredible job of supporting us. This World Cup just shows, really, what federations do support their teams, and who really made it the furthest. You look at England, France, our team, as comparison to a Brazil, who has so much potential, who could easily make it into the final given their quality, but don’t quite have the support. We have to continue to push that along and I think we’re doing that.”
“We always have to be open to progress and sometimes it takes some people a little bit longer to get there, but I think his eyes are opened up and I’ll definitely continue to peel them open at all times,” Rapinoe said of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who she again called upon to address the issue of equal pay after Sunday’s win.
While Trump joined other politicians in congratulating the USWNT on their fourth title on social media, he appears to have backpedaled on his promise to invite the team to the White House.
“We haven’t really thought about it,” Trump said Sunday, according to Voice of America. “We’ll look at that.”
Rapinoe said on CNN on Tuesday that she would not accept an invitation to meet with Trump at the White House because she wouldn’t want the platform she and her teammates have built to be “co-opted.”
She added that she would be happy to accept to accept invitations to visit the Capitol from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
“I think, even in conversations with teammates that I’ve had, I think everyone is interested in going to Washington,” she told the network’s Anderson Cooper. “This is such a special moment for us, and to be able to sort of leverage this moment and talk about the things that we want to talk about, and to celebrate this with the leaders of our country, it’s an incredible moment.”
“Yes to AOC, yes to Nancy Pelosi,” she continued with a smile, “yes to the bipartisan Congress, yes to Chuck Schumer, yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real, substantive conversation, and that believes in the same things we believe in.”
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