Whether it was his bruised ego or that he just can’t stand having the conversation be about someone else, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday morning to rage at Rapinoe, her old comment about visiting the White House and her even older policy of not singing during the national anthem.
All he managed to do was make himself look (more) foolish.
It started with Trump directing his initial rage at the wrong person, someone who doesn’t even spell her name the same way as the Megan Rapinoe, who is one of the captains of the U.S. women’s team and whose greatest achievements, the 2015 World Cup title and 2012 Olympic gold medal, have never been in question.
What set Trump off is neither new nor news. Rapinoe and other members of the U.S. women’s team have been saying for months they wouldn’t go to the White House should they win the World Cup on July 7.
And, if you know even the slightest bit about these players, that is no surprise. This is a team suing its own federation for gender discrimination, so, yeah, it’s probably not likely to hobnob with someone with such a long track record of bigotry and misogyny.
But there are few things Trump loves more than stoking a good culture war. Or causing a scene to try and distract from the news Robert Mueller is going to testify before Congress. Either way, there was no way he was going to resist an old video of Rapinoe saying she wouldn’t go to “the (expletive) White House” or recent clickbait about her long history of peaceful protest.
Megan Rapinoe starred for the USWNT. Trump claimed that championship teams love visiting him at the White House. Apparently he’s forgotten about the Philadelphia Eagles, half of the Boston Red Sox, the Virginia men’s basketball team, North Carolina’s men’s basketball team, South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team – shall I continue?
He then went off on a tangent about NBA teams, which have made clear they want nothing to do with him, and bizarrely – and wrongly – quoted black unemployment rates and the poverty index. What relevance that has isn’t clear, unless perhaps he thinks Rapinoe is black or he was dog whistling again.
Either way, not good.
Trump wound up his tweet storm by saying Rapinoe should not disrespect the country, White House or flag – none of which she’s doing. When he himself will begin heeding that advice remains to be seen.
While it’s easy to poke fun at Trump, and dismiss his criticism for the inanity that it is, it obscures what is actually important. Rapinoe is smart, thoughtful and principled, and she made the decision to kneel for the anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick because she was bothered by the very real problem of biased policing that has cost the lives of far too many people of color.
When U.S. Soccer changed its rules to require athletes to stand, Rapinoe said she would no longer sing or place her hand on her heart. The bias and bigotry that prompted her to protest in the first place persist, and so would she. Rapinoe is also lesbian, and Trump and his administration have actively pursued and enacted policies targeting the LGBTQ community.
Rapinoe is well aware her acts of protest can be a flashpoint, and she doesn’t much care. That’s the point. Our rules of law, our cherished traditions, our very democracy are being eroded by Trump and his sycophants, and drawing attention to that is far more important to Rapinoe than what people might think of her.
Even if it’s the president. Especially when it’s this president.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
Slide 1 of 36: June 7: France’s Eugenie Le Sommer celebrates after scoring a goal against South Korea.