PARIS — A day after finding herself on the receiving end of a critical Twitter diatribe by President Trump, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe said she not only stood by her decision not to visit the White House following the ongoing 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, but encouraged her national team teammates not to go, either.
“I’ll address it head on and then we can get to the soccer questions,” Rapinoe said Thursday, opening a press conference a day before the U.S. takes on the host nation in the World Cup quarterfinal. “I stand by the comments I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive – my mom would be very upset about that.
“Considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have and using it for good and leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place, I don’t think that I would want to go, and I think I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having it co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way or fight for the same things that we fight for.
“I’ll just leave it at that.”
The match is the biggest of the World Cup so far, but it has been overshadowed somewhat by the controversy brewing back home.
In response to a video taken in January and posted online on Wednesday, in which Rapinoe said that “I’m not going to the f---ing White House” if the U.S. repeats as champions, Trump invited the team “win or lose” and said that Rapinoe, who has been critical of the president and his policies and previously kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality against minorities, “should never disrespect our country, the White House, or our flag.”
Despite her desire to turn the attention towards Friday’s game, Rapinoe was asked several more questions about the spat with the president.
“I think I would prefer to just keep it on the game for this and then [answer that] after the tournament,” she said in response to a question about what she was protesting.
Rapinoe has not kneeled before a match since 2016. U.S. Soccer has since required players to stand during the national anthem. Rapinoe now does so silently with her hands behind her back. In an interview last year, she told Yahoo Sports that she would “probably never put my hand over my heart” again.
“I have talked about it a lot and said a lot about it,” she said Thursday. “I think I’d prefer to keep it about the game today.”
As for the video that prompted Trump’s response, she noted that it was not new. “I didn’t make the comments at a press conference here, they were made months ago and are just kind of resurfacing,” Rapinoe said.
Meantime, U.S. coach Jill Ellis said Thursday that the controversy has not impacted the dressing room ahead of the high-stakes meeting with Les Bleues. “I think we all support Megan,” Ellis said. “She knows that. We know we have each other’s backs in there.”
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