On the eve of a 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinal showdown between the United States and France, U.S. Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe addressed the elephant in the room at the outset of Thursday’s pre-match news conference in France.
In the days following Monday’s Round of 16 victory over Spain, where Rapinoe led the United States with two penalty kick goals, the co-captain drew headlines for her silent protesting of the national anthem and subsequent disapproval by President Trump.
She also had an interview, conducted before the WWC, with soccer magazine Eight by Eight go viral on social media for saying was not “going to the [expletive] White House,” if the USWNT won the World Cup. Trump then tweeted a thread where he invited Rapinoe and the rest of the USWNT to the White House whether they win or lose the World Cup.
So on Thursday, as the United States braces for the challenge tournament host France, ranked fourth in the world, presents, Rapinoe addressed her White House comments.
“I stand by the comments that I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive,” Rapinoe told reporters in France. “My mom will be very upset about that. But I think, obviously, entering with a lot of passion considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have in 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’d 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.”
Rapinoe, who came out as gay in 2012 and is married to WNBA star Sue Bird, was part of the USWNT that won the World Cup in 2015 and visited the White House when Barack Obama was president. In 2016, she knelt for the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest. The U.S. Soccer Federation then made a rule forcing all players representing the national team to stand for the national anthem.
Rapinoe has stood for the anthem with her teammates, but no longer sings the anthem and previously described herself as a “walking protest,” according to Yahoo Sports. Rapinoe called Trump, “sexist, misogynistic, small-minded, racist” and “not a good person,” according to Yahoo Sports.
She also told the outlet in May, “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart. I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”
Teammate Alex Morgan said before the tournament that she wouldn’t go to the White House. Teammate Ali Krieger tweeted Wednesday night her support of Rapinoe.
Trump told the Hill earlier this week, “I love watching women’s soccer. They’re really talented.”
At Thursday’s news conference, a French reporter mentioned Rapinoe was popular in France after her comments.
“I think I was already popular in France before this, right,” Rapinoe said. “Come on! I played here. They try not to like me, but I think they do.”