Megan Rapinoe does not want to go to the White House. Megan Rapinoe does not want to go to the White House if the U.S. Women’s National Team wins the World Cup, because Donald Trump is the president. She does not want to visit Donald Trump because of his record and statements on racial issues, gender issues, LGBTQ issues, immigration, sexual harassment, sexual assault—take your pick, or pick all of them: If there’s a marginalized group, the president has said or done something to degrade it, marginalize it further, or outright harm it. Megan Rapinoe disagrees with all of this, because she appears to be a decent human being, and doesn’t really want to hang out with Trump because of that. This seems pretty clear-cut.
On Tuesday, when Rapinoe told Eight By Eight, “I’m not going to the fucking White House,” it wasn’t even the first time. In a May Sports Illustrated profile, Rapinoe had run down the list of causes and movement she supports, and said in plain language that those issues matter more to her than a White House visit.
“I am not going to fake it,” she said, “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.” That last sentence is the key, isn’t it? When Trump invites championship-winning athletes to a fast-food shindig at his office, he’s glomming onto their fame and success and implicitly boasting their imprimatur. The USWNT, should it win the World Cup, will be able to choose the manner of their fêting, and its members will have the platforms to say what they want to say and celebrate what they want to celebrate without having the president’s self-satisfied grinning face looming over everything. They don’t need him. And while there are those people who will tell you that a championship-winning athlete visiting the White House is apolitical, that athlete has explicitly made the decision that the president’s beliefs, words, and actions aren’t odious enough to turn down the visit. That’s a political calculation. Rapinoe is expressing her politics, and she’s being honest about them, and she’s doing it in a way that will get attention. No different than her refusal to sing the national anthem before matches.
Of course all of this got Trump’s attention, because someone was talking about him in a setting large enough to eventually end up on Fox & Friends, and on Wednesday he pooped out some tweets at Rapinoe but also about NBA owners and black unemployment because...? Also he tweeted at the wrong person. He formally invited the USWNT to the White House, win or lose, because Trump instinctually understands what a lot of people still deny: this is a political opportunity. And if the USWNT aren’t going to extend their platform to him, he’s just going to clamber atop their platform, or perhaps be hoisted onto it it via a complicated series of ropes and pulleys.
This isn’t a he-said she-said. Rapinoe doesn’t have to respond to the president’s tweets, or clarify yet again her problems with a White House visit. And so on Thursday, at a media availability a day ahead of the de facto tournament final against France, Rapinoe tried to head off the back-and-forth with a statement.
“I stand by the comments that I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with exception of the expletive,” she said. “My mom would be very upset about that.
“But I think obviously answering with a lot of passion, considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have, and using it for good, and for 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 would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having that co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and fight for the same things we fight for.”
Clear as day.