As is the case for any potential champion, the United States women’s national team is facing The White House Question.
To go or not to go?
The FIFA Women’s World Cup begins next week in France with the U.S. returning as defending champions. Ahead of the trip and games, the players are being featured around the media world. With that comes the question of if they’ll potentially make the trip to see President Donald Trump at the White House, a tradition that has taken a different turn and isn’t a guarantee anymore.
Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, two of the most visible USWNT players, have voiced opposition to current policies and said they won’t go, while others have remained non-committal.
Rapinoe on White House: ‘Absolutely not’
Rapinoe was clear in her comments, saying “absolutely not” to attending a celebration at the White House if the team defends its title in France.
"I am not going to fake it, hobnob with the president, who is clearly against so many of the things that I am [for] and so many of the things that I actually am. I have no interest in extending our platform to him."
Rapinoe told SI she would be open to meeting with other members of the government in Washington, D.C. The Minnesota Lynx did not receive an invitation to the White House after their 2017 WNBA championship and instead did community service at an elementary school in the capital.
The 33-year-old Rapinoe is, in her own words, a “walking protest.” She came out publicly in 2012 and became a staunch advocate for LGBTQ rights and pay equality. In September 2016, she joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem, becoming the first female athlete to do so.
Her feelings on Trump are also clear: She calls him “sexist,” “misogynistic,” “small-minded,” “racist” and “not a good person.”
Morgan says no to White House
Alex Morgan also has simple thoughts on if she’ll visit the White House. The 29-year-old told Time Magazine’s Sean Gregory she won’t go since she doesn’t “stand for a lot of things the current office stands for.” She told Time she was against the policy of separating migrant families at the border with Mexico, noting that is where her husband’s family is from.
“We don’t have to be put in this little box. There’s the narrative that’s been said hundreds of times about any sort of athlete who’s spoken out politically. ‘Stick to sports.’ We’re much more than that, O.K.?”
Becky Sauerbrunn supported what Morgan said during media day, via Yahoo Sports:
"First we would have to win the whole thing, so that's no small feat. And then I'm sure the group will evaluate. But I'm sure what Alex said is pretty much the majority opinion."
Neither Tobin Heath nor Julie Ertz had a comment on if they’d go, noting they’re focused on the games and not what happens after.
“To be honest, I haven't thought about that at all because I'm just focused on the first game,” Tobin said. A reporter asked if it was a “cross that bridge when you get there” situation.
“I hope that bridge is there, you know?” she said.
Ertz said to ask her later.
"I have not even looked past the first game against Thailand. So you can ask me that later but the first game right now is against Thailand and that's literally all I've thought about."
The 27-year-old midfielder has an interesting perspective on White House offers. Her husband, Zach Ertz, was a member of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles that had their invite rescinded by Trump. Most of the players had plans to skip the event anyway.
White House invite not a guarantee
Heath’s comment about hoping the bridge would be there was in direct relation to winning the World Cup, which features arguably the deepest and most talented field in history.
It’s also meaningful since there’s no guarantee Trump will offer an invite. Baylor, the 2019 NCAA women’s basketball champion, was invited, yet the winner before them was not. Nor were the aforementioned Lynx, or the Golden State Warriors.
In contrast, Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and Team Penske were invited almost immediately after their Memorial Day weekend victory.
Many of these athletes had already spurned the potential offer. And even teams that did get an invite and visited were missing players, such as the Boston Red Sox earlier this spring. Others have flat-out declined the invite.
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