PARIS — Megan Rapinoe was nonetheless sweating by her uniform on Monday evening, moments after scoring two targets for the United States girls’s soccer workforce, when she was requested what the environment across the Americans’ subsequent World Cup match, an elimination sport in opposition to France on Friday in Paris, is likely to be like.
“Hopefully a complete spectacle, just an absolute media circus,” she mentioned, with the mix of sarcasm and sincerity that has made her some of the fashionable girls’s soccer gamers on this planet. “I hope it’s huge and crazy.”
Her want has begun to come true — although maybe not in the way in which she imagined.
On Wednesday morning, President Trump criticized Ms. Rapinoe with a three-tweet blast in response to a current interview by which Ms. Rapinoe acknowledged, with an obscenity, that she wouldn’t go to the White House if the United States had been to win the World Cup.
Mr. Trump, whose workplace and Twitter account grant him a singular means to encourage each spectacles and media circuses, wrote that Ms. Rapinoe “should never disrespect our country, the White House or our flag.”
“I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer,” the president continued, “however Megan ought to WIN first earlier than she TALKS! Finish the job!’’
Visiting the White House was as soon as a reasonably routine exercise for American sports activities groups that received main championships. But with Mr. Trump within the White House, such visits have turn into imbued with political which means, inspiring fraught dialog every time a workforce wins a trophy.
Ms. Rapinoe, 33, greater than athletes, has welcomed such conversations, and there could also be no American soccer participant, male or feminine, higher geared up to cope with being pulled into the political highlight.
A winger with a flashy, inventive streak, she is likely one of the most interesting soccer gamers the United States has ever produced. Easy to spot together with her swooping wave of lavender-dyed hair, she scored each targets within the United States’ 2-1 win over Spain on Monday, growing her profession tally with the workforce to 47 in 156 video games.
She is one among a handful of American gamers with a significant off-the-field profile, too. Away from the sector, Ms. Rapinoe, who’s homosexual, has been an outspoken supporter of L.G.B.T.Q. rights and, extra just lately, a blunt critic of the president. In 2016, she grew to become one of many few white athletes to join Colin Kaepernick and others when they led an ongoing protest against racism and police violence by kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events.
A co-captain of the women’s national team, she is also a party to its gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer.
“The more I’ve been able to learn about gay rights and equal pay and gender equity and racial inequality, the more that it all intersects,” Ms. Rapinoe told The Guardian in 2017. “We need to talk about a larger conversation in this country about equality in general and respect — especially with the recent election and subsequent narrative that’s coming from the White House right now.”
[Megan Rapinoe has long had an independent streak. Read our 2013 profile.]
Ms. Rapinoe is not the only United States player to say she will not visit the White House. Forward Alex Morgan told Time magazine last month that she would not go, and hours after Mr. Trump’s tweets another American player, Ali Krieger, said she would stand with Ms. Rapinoe and not go.
The recent narrative entwining Ms. Rapinoe and Mr. Trump began on Tuesday, when the soccer magazine 8 by 8 tweeted a video clip excerpted from a January interview in which she was asked whether she was looking forward to going to the White House, assuming the national team won this summer.
“No, I’m not going to the White House,” Ms. Rapinoe said, repeating herself after initially using a profanity to express the same sentiment. “We’re not going to be invited.”
In 2015, Ms. Rapinoe and the United States team won the World Cup in Canada, and the entire team visited the White House for a ceremony with President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, in his tweet stream, Mr. Trump said that he would invite the team to the White House, “win or lose.” U.S. Soccer said it would have no comment on Ms. Rapinoe’s remarks.
A twin and one of six siblings, she grew up in Redding, Calif., about 200 miles north of San Francisco, and she still speaks with a casual Californian lilt. She came out to her family and close friends in her first year at the University of Portland. She came out publicly a year after the 2011 World Cup, where she had cemented her status as one of the most dynamic players in the country. She had the 35-yard assist on Abby Wambach’s game-tying goal in the waning moments of a quarterfinal against Brazil, one of the biggest goals in U.S. soccer history.
She also became one of the most popular players — among fans around the world and her own teammates — thanks in part to her irreverent sense of humor and a porous filter for her innermost thoughts.
Ms. Rapinoe’s awakening to politics came gradually, later in her career.
On Sept. 4, 2016, while playing for the Seattle Reign in a National Women’s Soccer League game in Chicago, she dropped down to one knee during the playing of the national anthem, becoming the first white athlete and first woman to take part in the protest movement started by Mr. Kaepernick.
The decision launched her into a rapidly boiling national conversation over athletes and activism, earning her months of vitriol from critics along with outpourings of support.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” Rapinoe said after that game. “It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this.”
Several months later, the U.S. Soccer Federation rewrote its rules for players, requiring that they stand for the anthem.
Rapinoe said she would respect the rule, but since then, including at this World Cup, she has stood silently on the field with her hands at her sides while the rest of the American players have sung the anthem with their hands over their hearts.
“I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart,” she told Yahoo Sports in May. “I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”
In his tweets, Mr. Trump initially tagged the wrong Twitter account, citing @meganrapino instead of @mpinoe. The incorrectly tagged account responded in good humor, saying that the president was likely to be a boon for getting followers. The error was corrected shortly afterward.
Mr. Trump also went on a tangent about the N.B.A., noting it was the only league whose teams had not accepted the invitations to the White House after a championship. The last N.B.A. team to make such a visit was the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, when Mr. Obama’s second term was winding down.
Yahoo Sports quoted Ms. Rapinoe last month calling Mr. Trump “sexist,” “misogynistic,” “small-minded,” “racist” and “not a good person.” But those comments did not draw his public ire.
Ms. Rapinoe was not made available for interviews on Wednesday and did not respond to Mr. Trump on social media.
Andrew Das contributed reporting from Paris, and Victor Mather contributed from New York.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.