With Spain in the rear-view mirror and France on the horizon, most American sports fans and others who are paying attention are all on board as the U.S. women’s national soccer team continues its quest to win its fourth World Cup.
Most, but not all. There’s one fellow in particular who is sounding rather grumpy about the red, white and blue.
Oddly, it’s the U.S. president.
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Donald Trump unleashed a rambling tweetstorm against co-captain Megan Rapinoe Wednesday morning just two days after he was asked in an interview with The Hill political website if her choice to stand at attention with her hands clasped behind her and not sing the national anthem during the World Cup is appropriate.
Trump’s reply: “No. I don’t think so.”
Wait. What? That’s not appropriate anymore? I was always taught that was a perfect way to honor the flag, the anthem and the country. I wasn’t a good singer, but I certainly knew how to stand ramrod straight and be silent. Apparently, we have all new rules now, people.
Rapinoe, who knelt during the national anthem nearly three years ago as a gesture of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, and who has spoken eloquently about the serious issues facing this country, is not kneeling now. Her choice to stand silently during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner means that she is far more respectful of the anthem and the flag than the thousands of people at sporting events every year who walk the concourse or talk while in line for beers or otherwise don’t stand still or have any notion about what’s going on.
When the reporter asked Trump about Rapinoe, he could have brushed off the question. He did not. No, he willingly inserted himself into the conversation about this World Cup. He probably couldn’t stand that the openly gay Rapinoe, like millions of other Americans, has been critical of him, calling herself a “walking protest” of Trump’s policies. So he just had to say something negative about the woman who scored both goals on penalty kicks in the tense 2-1 U.S. victory over Spain Monday.
Trump also was asked about the U.S. team’s gender discrimination lawsuit against its national governing body, U.S. Soccer, but suggested he didn’t have enough knowledge about the issue to take a position.
“I love watching women’s soccer,” he said. “They’re really talented. I think a lot of it also has to do with the economics. I mean who draws more, where is the money coming in. I know that when you have the great stars like (Portugal’s Cristiano) Ronaldo and some of these stars … that get paid a lot of money, but they draw hundreds of thousands of people. But I haven’t taken a position on that at all. I’d have to look at it.”
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Of all the names Trump could have pulled out of the air to illustrate a point that gets harder to make every day with the financial success of the U.S. women’s team, he chose a Portuguese man, not an American – and a man who is facing an allegation of sexual assault and a federal lawsuit stemming from a 2009 incident in Las Vegas. How big of a deal is this allegation? The New York Times reported that Juventus, the Italian soccer league team for whom Ronaldo plays, wouldn’t participate in a tournament in the United States this summer to avoid the risk that Ronaldo would be detained by authorities as part of the rape investigation.
Wouldn’t you know that it would be his name that Trump would mention for a comparison with the most beloved U.S. national team, male or female, in any sport over the past 20 years? In a week when the nation is cheering on Rapinoe and her teammates, he’s name-dropping Ronaldo. Somehow, that makes perfect sense.