Why sexist Donald Trump will have no effect on USWNT's World Cup bid

The U.S. president is now in an all-out feud with his country’s team, but don’t expect the U.S. women to let it bother them

There is no bigger, and louder, potential distraction for the U.S. women’s national team than Donald Trump. 

His perfect record of never once taking anything in stride continued this week, as he chose to respond to U.S. star Megan Rapinoe saying (in a video filmed six months ago) that she will not be attending the White House to celebrate should the U.S. lift the World Cup in Lyon on Sunday July 7.

OK, so she swore too.

Trump, as is his wont, launched into a tweetstorm in response to Rapinoe, saying that she should “win first before she talks” before then oddly inviting the team to the White House even if they don’t win the World Cup.

On Thursday, Rapinoe shot back at Trump and defended what she said in the video filmed months ago. 

“I stand by the comments I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive. My mom will be very upset about that,” Rapinoe said with a laugh.

“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 doesn’t fight for the same things that we fight for.”

To be clear, Rapinoe and her teammates have every right to decline an invitation from a man whose history of sexism is too obvious and lengthy to require much elaboration. 

There should be no obligation for the U.S. women to share a room with a man like Trump, let alone to let him bask in their reflected glow. His past comments and deeds should at least have that small consequence.

Clearly, Rapinoe’s teammates have her back. Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn both indicated before the World Cup they would have no interest in visiting the White House and on Wednesday, U.S. defender Ali Krieger issued a blistering tweet aimed at Trump saying, in part, “I know women who you cannot control or grope anger you.”

“We all support Megan, she knows that,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said on Thursday. “We know we have each other’s backs in there.”

It would be easy for Rapinoe and her teammates to let this ongoing feud distract them from what will be one of the most highly anticipated matches in women’s soccer history, Friday’s quarterfinal showdown with host France in Paris. 

Luckily, this is a U.S. team that has become accustomed to dealing with distractions.

Over the years, there have been a host of off-field controversies that the USWNT has managed. The U.S. reached two World Cup finals and won one of them with walking distraction Hope Solo as their goalkeeper, and has navigated revolts against coaches, gender equality fights off the pitch and plenty of other potential distractions for decades. 

“It’s part of the makeup of the players,” Ellis said. “They’re elite people that live on a stage and they’re always under scrutiny.

“For our players, there’s only one purpose, one mission why we’re here. Comments, media, whatever, that’s always been something that we can block out pretty easily.”

Just since this World Cup has started, the U.S. has been forced to tune out – or embrace – the controversy over its celebrations against Thailand, while also brushing aside questions about the latest developments in their equal pay lawsuit. 

“This team has always been good at compartmentalizing,” defender Kelley O’Hara said last week.

History shows this latest skirmish between Trump and Rapinoe won’t have any effect on what the team is doing on the field.

“I’m not worried about destabilizing the dressing room,” Rapinoe said. “I think we have an incredibly strong dressing room. We’re very open with each other, obviously everyone knows who I am.”

And whatever happens on the field, don’t expect any U.S. players to step foot in the White House as long as the current occupant is living there. 

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