After winning their fourth World Cup championship on Sunday, July 7, the United States Women's National Team (USWNT) has returned stateside. Since then, there have been ticker tape celebrations, Good Morning America appearances, and plenty of champagne toasts for the players. During a Tuesday night TV interview, though, Megan Rapinoe, the team's captain and this year's Golden Boot recipient, took a break from the post-victory festivities to send a serious message to noted critic President Trump.
Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN, Rapinoe — who hasn't ever shied away from expressing her political beliefs, whether in regards to LGBTQ rights, equal pay, or racism — turned directly to the camera and gathered her thoughts before sharing the message.
"I think that I would say that you're excluding people. You're excluding me, you're excluding people that look like me, you're excluding people of color, you're excluding Americans that maybe support you," she began. "I think we need to have a reckoning with the message that you have and what you're saying about Make America Great Again."
She continued, "I think you're harking back to an era of America that was not great for everyone. It might have been great for a few people and maybe America is great for a few people right now but it's not great for enough Americans in this world. And I think that we have a responsibility, each and every one of us — you have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person and you need to do better for everyone."
Rapinoe's comments come weeks after a months-old video of the athlete saying she wouldn't be "going to the f*cking White House" if the USWNT won the World Cup went viral, gaining the attention of the president. In a series of tweets, Trump attacked Rapinoe, saying that she "should WIN first before she TALKS!" and that people should "be proud of the Flag that you wear."
Rapinoe's response to the president's comments on CNN are powerful, but not surprising, as her political history extends well past this year's World Cup. In 2016, she became the first athlete that wasn't black or in the NFL to kneel during the national anthem; she's an openly lesbian athlete who strongly advocates for the rights of LGBTQ people; and she's part of the USWNT's lawsuit suing the United States Soccer Federation for gender discrimination.
In the past, Rapinoe has received backlash for her activism, but even when faced with the full weight of the president's ire, she hasn't buckled under the pressure. And although Trump seems to pride himself on politically divisive rhetoric and attacking anyone who doesn't show him unquestioning praise, including Rapinoe, she's continued to stand her ground and make her opposition clear. It's incredible to watch — a woman who is one of the best soccer players in the world is lecturing one of the most powerful men in the world about personal responsibility.
After Rapinoe shared her message to Trump (whom Cooper noted would likely be watching the interview), the host brought up her use of the president's campaign slogan. "The idea of Make America Great Again, if it means going back to the '40's or '50s, that's an America where you could be imprisoned for being gay," Cooper said.
"Yeah, it was not a great place for a lot of people," Rapinoe responded. "For a lot of people it was a very oppressive place, and that's not to say it was the worst place in the world. I think that's a thing that a lot of people go to. No one is saying that they want to leave America. But as one of the great countries in the world, and for sure we want to see ourselves as that, we need to constantly look within and challenge ourselves to be better."
At the end of the interview, the athlete confirmed that she and the rest of the USWNT do have plans to go to Washington D.C., although it might not include the White House. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have both extended invitations to the world champions.
"We've always been interested in going to Washington," Rapinoe said. "This is such a special moment for us, and for us to sort of leverage this moment and talk about the things that we want to talk about... is an incredible moment."