US women’s soccer national team captain Megan Rapinoe says she believes ‘not many, if any’ of her teammates would accept President Trump’s offer to visit the White House should they win Sunday’s World Cup final against the Netherlands.
Rapinoe had previously made it clear that she had no intention of visiting ‘the f***ing White House’ during an interview in January. A video of her strong statement resurfaced last month and was not well received by the president.
Trump hit back on Twitter this week, writing: ‘I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!
‘We haven’t yet invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose.
‘Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear.’
Rapinoe was asked about whether the team were planning to accept the president’s invitation during a pre-match media conference on Saturday.
‘I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to everyone about it,’ she said.
‘Not myself, not Ali Krieger and I suspect not many, if any, of the other players, but I haven’t spoken to everyone about it.’
Krieger expressed her support for Rapinoe and said she would also decline the invitation because ‘I refuse to respect a man that warrants no respect’.
‘I feel that staying silent at times can side with the oppressor and I didn’t want [Rapinoe] to feel like she was having to process this all alone, because a lot of us do have those similar feelings,’ she told CNN.
Forward Alex Morgan, the team’s leading scorer, has said that any decision about whether to visit the White House would only come after the final, and would likely be a collective team choice.
‘I think we will make that decision after we finish Sunday’s game,’ Morgan told reporters.
‘I think there has been a lot of talk prematurely about the White House and about Trump but first we have to do business and then I think you guys know the answer to the question anyways.’
Asked if she could imagine a situation where some players attended while others stayed away, Morgan said that was unlikely.
‘I can’t say 100 percent but this team is very close and we have always made decisions together so I can’t really see us deciding to part in that way but at the same time if someone feels strongly then who are we to tell them to do or not do something,’ she said.
Rapinoe also hit out at out FIFA on the eve of the Women’s World Cup title match, over their lack of investment in women’s soccer.
Her criticism Saturday ranged from the gap in prize money between the men and women, to scheduling that put the World Cup final on the same day as the Gold Cup final in the United States and the Copa America final in Brazil. Rapinoe and the United States play the Netherlands on Sunday for the championship.
A day earlier, FIFA President Gianni Infantino had announced that he’ll seek to expand the tournament field from 24 to 32 teams and double the prize money for the women. But even doubling the pool from $30 million to $60 million doesn’t diminish the gap with the men’s World Cup prize money, which is set at $440 million for Qatar, up from $400 million in Russia last year.
Rapinoe has maintained that FIFA doesn’t truly care about the women’s game.
‘If you really care are you letting the gap grow? Are you scheduling three finals on the same day? No, you’re not. Are you letting federations have their teams play two games in the four years between each tournament? No, you’re not,’ Rapinoe said. ‘That’s what I mean about the level of care, you need attention and detail and the best minds that we have in the women’s game, helping it grow every single day.’
Inequity between the men’s and women’s World Cup had been stark since before this year’s tournament started, focused on the prize money and scheduling, but also on the promotion of the event.
Asked what would ensure the growth of the game globally following this summer’s tournament, Rapinoe sang the opening refrain from the O’Jays song ‘For the Love of Money.’
‘Money, Money, Money, Money. Money from FIFA, money from federations. Money from advertisers, sponsors, rights-holders, TV. All of that. And obviously not just blindly throwing cash at things, but investing in infrastructure, in training programs and academies for women, in coaching for women. All of it,’ she said. ‘I don’t think you get to the point of having an incredible business by running it on a budget that’s a dollar more than it was last year. You have to make up-front investments and really bet on the future.’
Infantino sought to address concerns Friday, pointing to the successes of the tournament in France, including record television audiences.
‘Nothing is impossible and based on the success of this World Cup of course we have to believe bigger and to do what we should have done already probably some time ago,’ Infantino said. ‘But now we have the evidence to do it for women’s football.’
Approval to expand the field for the 2023 Women’s World Cup would have to come quickly because bidding is already under way. The 37-member FIFA Council is due to vote for the host next March. Nine countries have expressed interest, with formal bids due Oct. 4.
He’ll also propose raising the women’s prize money, team preparation funding and cash for clubs releasing players to $100 million, up from $50 million for France. However, men’s teams in Qatar will see those funds go up to $649 million.
FIFA’s cash reserves at the end of 2018 stood at $2.74 billion.
‘I understand it’s a very complex problem,’ Rapinoe said. ‘But the resources are there and I think the willingness and the brain power is all there, the people wanting to work in the women’s game and make it as good as we can, it’s all there. It’s just a matter of wanting to do it and caring enough about it, to make it happen. I mean, we’re making a World Cup in Qatar happen.’
Rapinoe did praise the U.S. Soccer federation for its support of the women’s national team. The comments come despite a federal lawsuit the players filed against the federation, accusing it of discrimination and seeking more equitable pay to the men’s team. The two sides are expected to mediate the dispute when the World Cup is over.
‘We don’t often give them kudos, but that’s definitely one that I’m willing to give. They back the team in a very strong way and have pushed the game, not only in our country but around the world, to a level that without us, we wouldn’t be here in the world game,’ she said. ‘So I think that they do deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that, and we’ll continue to nudge them forward.’
The defending champions are heavily favored to bring home their fourth World Cup.
On Friday, Trump told reporters he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to watch Sunday’s final but said: ‘I hope they do well. I hope they win.’
Rapinoe, an openly-gay LGBTQ advocate who has been critical of Trump and his social policies, has steadfastly refused to sing the national anthem or put her hand over her heart before World Cup games.
She previously knelt during the anthem in 2016, becoming one of the first white athletes to do so in solidarity with equal rights advocate and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The US Soccer Federation responded by creating a rule demanding that players stand for the anthem, and Rapinoe has complied.
Rapinoe and her teammates did visit then-President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015 to celebrate America’s third World Cup title.
While she has no desire to meet Trump, Rapinoe has accepted an invitation to meet Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after the New York Democrat reached out to the midfielder on Twitter.