While Megan Rapinoe and President Donald Trump’s Twitter feud over visiting the White House may have divided the nation, Rapinoe reveals that the controversy fired up the team, and made them even more determined to secure the World Cup.
In the interview, which aired on Vox’s “Recode Decode” podcast, Rapinoe sat down with journalist Kara Swisher to talk more about the Twitter controversy that thrust her into the spotlight — specifically, the President implying that she was “disrespecting” the U.S.
“I [said] what is going on? This is so insane,’” Rapinoe recalled to Vox. “And [the team was] like, ‘We’re going to win. So this is not going to age well.’”
The drama began during the 2019 Women’s FIFA World Cup tournament, when a video of Rapinoe saying that she was “not going to the f---ing White House” went viral. President Trump made a jab at the USWNT captain and criticized her silent protests during the National Anthem before matches.
“The interview was actually a couple of months before. And then someone had been holding onto that little golden nugget for a couple of months,” Rapinoe told Vox. “One of our media people sent me a text [after]...I don’t follow [Trump]. And I went on Twitter and looked at it and I was like, ‘This is crazy.’”
Trump’s tweets not only attacked her patriotism, but suggested she couldn’t criticize the President unless she won the title.
“I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS!” Trump tweeted on June 26. “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.”
....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
Beyond bullying her, Rapinoe criticized Trump for taking the time to make a jab at her instead of addressing more serious issues such as national security.
“I mean actually, my initial reaction was like... How many national security items did you skip over? And you’re like, ‘Let me just tweet Megan Rapinoe.’ Like what is that?” Rapinoe told Swisher.
“‘Southern border, all good... That’s fine. I’m going to go on this crazy tirade with weird capitals all over the place.’” Rapinoe called Trump’s response “ridiculous” and “rude,” particularly before their USWNT’s big quarterfinal game against France.
“You should be proud, like doing everything you can or not doing anything, right? To make this team successful... It’s the World Cup. It’s America. You love America,” Rapinoe told Swisher. “This is the biggest [game of the tournament] and you’re heaping down this bold [expletive] on all of us. This is ridiculous, this is so rude.”
While America remains divided on Trump’s incendiary response to Rapinoe’s viral video, Rapinoe said that the tweet became a rallying cry to the team — daring them to rise to Trump’s challenge and win. “I felt like it actually sort of unified the team. Everyone was like, ‘You’re a G, Rapinoe!’ Like, ‘Get him!’ from the back of the bus,” Rapinoe said. “So it kind of unified everyone in that way.”
When Swisher asked Rapinoe again if she planned to visit the White House, Rapinoe jokingly replied that she would only ever go to the White House if she was being “inaugurated” as president.
But all jokes aside, Rapinoe said the real reason she wasn’t interested in going to the White House or even engaging with Trump was that she believed any conversation with the President would be futile.
“I’m not interested in having any conversation. I’m not interested in saying, ‘Oh, if you do this for us, then we’ll come to the White House,’” Rapinoe said. “I don’t think he’s interested in hearing what anyone has to say, really. Other than himself... He’s just doing whatever he wants to do.”
Following the controversy between Trump and Rapinoe, the USWNT captain was thrust to the forefront as USWNT’s spokesperson and top scorer. She gave several interviews openly criticizing Trump, at one point, calling him out out for excluding whole groups of Americans, and challenging him to do better.
“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," Rapinoe said during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Trump and his supporters were critical of Rapinoe for refusing to participate in the national anthem, with many calling the act “disrespectful” and “un-American.” However, when Rapinoe returned home with back-to-back World Cup championship titles, she was hailed as a “patriot” and an “American hero” for the team’s historic win — and for using her platform to speak out against the president.
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