President Donald Trump has a message for Megan Rapinoe, the co-captain of the U.S. women's national soccer team and a fierce critic of his administration, tweeting 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 set this off by saying, "I'm not going to the f------ White House," in a video clip posted by Eight by Eight magazine Tuesday, the day after the U.S. advanced to Friday's quarterfinal against France. "No, I'm not going to the White House. We're not going to be invited. I doubt it."
Rapinoe does not sing with her teammates during the playing of the national anthem, and Trump 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!"
He responded in a series of tweets in which he originally misspelled Rapinoe's name and used her incorrect Twitter handle while also mentioning NBA owners (the league prefers the term "governors"), criminal justice reform and "Black unemployment."
"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!"
The clip was posted on social media the day after Trump criticized Rapinoe for not joining her teammates in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games, although it is unclear when the interview was recorded. Asked whether he thought her action during the national anthem was appropriate, Trump told The Hill: "No, I don't think so."
The comment by Rapinoe, who visited Barack Obama's White House after the team won the World Cup in 2015, is hardly surprising given her staunch and vocal opposition to Trump over the past few years, but it did raise the question of whether the national team would even be invited. Trump rescinded an invitation to the Golden State Warriors, who had indicated they would not visit the White House after winning the NBA championship in 2017 and 2018.
Rapinoe, who came out as gay in 2012, recently called herself "a walking protest when it comes to the Trump administration" because of "everything I stand for." The idea that someone like her can wear the U.S. kit is "kind of a good 'F you' to any sort of inequality or bad sentiments that the [Trump] administration might have towards people who don't look exactly like him."
Rapinoe was at odds with the president in 2016, taking a knee during the national anthem while playing for the Seattle Reign to show support for and solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel during the anthem started a series of demonstrations by NFL players to bring attention to police brutality and social injustice. Those also brought frequent condemnation from the president and Rapinoe was the first high-profile white or female athlete to kneel during the anthem.
"I felt like it was the right thing to do. I think it was the right time to do that," she said days after the protest in 2016. "I've talked to people who are equally inspired and outraged, and I welcome both of those conversations and think that they are both incredibly important. I think over all it's been positive."
In the 2 1/2 years since Trump took office, many athletes have made it known they're displeased with his administration - perhaps none more clearly than Rapinoe. In comments published last month, she told Yahoo she considers Trump "sexist," "misogynistic," "small-minded," "racist" and "not a good person."
Rapinoe's feelings are also rooted in her advocacy for gay rights.
"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties," Rapinoe told John D. Halloran of American Soccer Now, explaining why she took a knee in 2016. "It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it."
She has no plans to start singing the anthem as she plays for her country's national team.
"I'll probably never put my hand over my heart," she told Yahoo. "I'll probably never sing the national anthem again."