As her teammates have sung along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” before each World Cup match, U.S. soccer star and national team co-captain Megan Rapinoe has stood silently, lips sealed.
President Donald Trump has noticed and isn’t a fan of that behavior. Asked whether he thought her action was appropriate, Trump told The Hill: “No. I don’t think so.”
Playing in her third World Cup, Rapinoe, 33, was the star of America’s 2-1 win over Spain on Monday, when she connected on a pair of penalty kicks. She is one of the faces of the U.S. team, and she has been willing to use her platform to make a stand beyond soccer.
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.” She said the idea that someone like her can don 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.”
As a member of the Seattle Reign in September 2016, Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem before a match against the Chicago Red Stars as a “nod to” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who that summer began his protests over the oppression of minorities and drew an angry response from Trump. She became 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.”
That was shortly before Trump was elected president.
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.”
She added that her gesture of resistance will continue. “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart,” she told Yahoo. “I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”
Her feelings are also rooted in how she feels about being an advocate 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.”
Although the president feels it is inappropriate to not sing the anthem, he has remained supportive of the U.S. women’s team, telling The Hill: “I love watching women’s soccer. They’re really talented.”
Asked by The Hill if women’s soccer players should be paid as much as the men, Trump did not have a clear stance.
“I think a lot of it also has to do with the economics,” he said. “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.”
The president’s remarks were slightly more elaborative than his response to the same question two weeks ago when he said, “We’ll talk about that later.”
The women’s national team advanced to its eighth consecutive World Cup quarterfinals appearance with its win Monday. It will face France at 3 p.m. Friday.