BY DANIEL SAENZ
This summer, the United States Women’s National Soccer team made history. After defeating the Netherlands 2-0, the United States won its 4th World Cup, and second Cup in a row (2015). However, this time was different. Instead of being all about redemption for the lost World Cup of 2011, this World Cup became embroiled by political tension.
In the lead up to the World Cup, the USWNT officially sued the United States Soccer Federation in order to receive equal pay for what the Men’s National Team makes. The argument was that the United States women performed objectively better than the men in international play, earning, at the time, 3 World Cups in comparison to the third-place finish that the men had in 1930, not to mention viewership, jersey sales, and overall revenue earned.
In an interview during the World Cup, USWNT member Megan Rapinoe was asked if she was excited to visit the White House to which she promptly responded, “I’m not going to the f*****g White House.”
This response then led to a backlash from President Trump, who tweeted, “Megan should win first before she talks…Megan should never disrespect the country, the White House, or our flag, especially since so much has been done for her and the team.”
Trump’s full tweet thread can be found here.
This was a reference to the fact that Rapinoe had joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem to protest what she perceived as the unfair treatment of both people of color and LGBT persons in the United States (a move which sparked a similar backlash by conservative pundit Tomi Lahren.)
After the United States won the Cup, this prompted a bit of a victory lap from Rapinoe as she gave a viral speech emphasizing the need to hate less and be together more as a country.
For the most part, the USWNT have continued with their victory lap and the talks about equal pay have only continued to intensify. This has, however, only made the discussion in regards to US Women’s Soccer more toxic. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro even felt the need to give his two cents stating that the US Women are not on the same skill level as men’s soccer, let alone teenage boy’s soccer.
To finish off the hissy fit, Shapiro then topped it off by asserting that Rapinoe is another by-product of the Kaepernick effect despite having actual talent and that the only reason that she receives contracts is because she is a talented and outspoken lesbian.
Shapiro’s full comments can be heard here.
Despite being a odious rant from a deeply bigoted individual who has a long history of attributing the success of his enemies to affirmative action, there is a tiny ounce of truth in there. It is true that in the last few years, politics have become difficult to disentangle from sports. While there were public displays of protest before such as Lebron James wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt in response to the police killing of Eric Garner, it has evolved into putting the very flag itself in the spotlight as well public spats between athletes and the president himself.
Given the fact that sports have traditionally been one of the great unifiers in this country, one can only hope that the situation changes so that line is no longer blurred.