Megan Rapinoe may not be going to the White House following her team’s World Cup win. But she does have something to say to President Trump.
The US women’s soccer team co-captain has been involved in a public back-and-forth with the president since she said, in an interview posted on Twitter in June, that she would not visit “the fucking White House” if her team won the championship. Trump responded, “Megan should WIN before she TALKS.”
Now she has won, and on Tuesday night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked her, “What is your message to the president?”
Her answer: “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,” she added, “and you need to do better for everyone.”
Anderson: "There's a good chance the president is watching this interview or will watch this interview. What is your message to the president?"@mPinoe paused, thought about it, then looked straight into the camera and said this.pic.twitter.com/og4vHQqBP6— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 10, 2019
Rapinoe’s response was striking for the way she chose to engage with the president, calling on him to do better rather than dismissing him outright. Of course, he’s unlikely to listen to the person he’s accused of “disrespect[ing] our Country.” But by challenging him to do a better job on behalf of all Americans, she was offering a rebuttal to his claim that she and other athletes who have used their platform for protest in recent years are unpatriotic.
Rapinoe’s comments are the latest in a long back-and-forth with Trump
Rapinoe is no stranger to public advocacy. In 2016, she took a knee during the national anthem before one of her games in solidarity with then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and racism. She has helped spearhead her team’s push for equal pay with male players. And she has spoken out joyfully about her identity as a gay woman, saying “Go gays!” after her team’s win against France.
In a moment that quickly went viral on Wednesday morning, during a ticker tape parade for the team in Manhattan, Rapinoe held a trophy in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other and proclaimed, “I deserve this!”
Her feud with Trump started in late June, when a clip from a video interview with the soccer magazine Eight by Eight was published on Twitter. After saying she wouldn’t be visiting the White House, Rapinoe added, “We’re not gonna be invited.” Winning sports teams often visit the White House, and the women’s national team were guests of President Obama there after their 2015 World Cup victory.
Trump took issue with Rapinoe’s comments, and said she should “finish the job” before she talks. He also said she “should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team.”
....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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2019
In her interview with Cooper on Tuesday, Rapinoe said that neither she nor any teammate she’d talked to would be visiting the White House.
Megan Rapinoe on White House visit: "I would not go and every teammate that I've talked to specifically about it would not go." pic.twitter.com/4OGX0zQ0Mk— The Hill (@thehill) July 10, 2019
“I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked so hard to build and the things that we fight for and the way that we live our life, I don’t think that we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration,” she added.
But when asked for her message to the president, Rapinoe didn’t just dismiss him as beneath contempt. Instead, she called on him to serve his country better, for his critics and supporters alike.
“We need to have a reckoning with the message that you have and what you’re saying about ‘Make America Great Again,’” she said. “I think you’re harkening back to an era that was not great for everyone. It might’ve been great for a few people, and maybe America’s great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans.”
The message was a rebuke to the idea, promulgated by Trump and others, that Rapinoe is unpatriotic.
Sociologist Lori L. Martin told Vox last week that Rapinoe, as well as Kaepernick, could be seen as representing “the best of American patriotism: trying to compel America to see itself in a way that perhaps makes many people uncomfortable.”
It was in that spirit that Rapinoe spoke to Trump.
“No one wants to leave America,” she told Cooper. But “we need to constantly look within and challenge ourselves to be better.”