By Michael Lewis
PARIS — Megan Rapinoe Thursday doubled down on her comments about refusing to visit the White House if the United States won the Women’s World Cup but did not any of her comments or the situation would destabilize the American locker room.
During a prematch press conference prior to the USA’s quarterfinal clash at Parc des Princes Stadium, the captain and veteran midfielder made a statement but refused to take any direct questions about her feud with President Donald Trump on her comments.
Trump Wednesday retaliated with a series of tweets, saying that Rapinoe shouldn’t “disrespect our country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team.”
With USA head coach Jill Ellis sitting next to Rapinoe at the podium in the interview room, Rapinoe made this statement to the media:
“I’ll address it head on and then we’ll get to the soccer questions. I stand by the comments that I made not wanting to go to the White House with the exception of the expletive My mom would be very upset about that. But obviously entering with a lot of passion considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have and using for good and leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place, I don’t think 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, doesn’t fight for the same things we fight for.
“So, I’ll just leave it at that and I’m not interested in answering any of those questions. We can get to the real reason why we’re here, which is a huge game.”
Rapinoe did not think her comments or the controversy with Trump, who has flown to Japan for a G-20 Summit, will be a distraction for the team.
“I am not worried about destabilizing the dressing room,” she said. “We have an incredibly strong dressing room. We’re very open with each other. Everyone knows who I am. But I didn’t make the comments at a press conference here. They were made months ago and just kind of resurfacing, so, I think if anything, it just fires everybody up a little bit more.”
In a video released by Eight by Eight magazine Tuesday, Rapinoe said that, “I’m not going to the f—ing White House. … We’re not going to be invited. I doubt it.”
She later added, “No. I’m not going to the White House. We’re not going to be invited. I doubt it.”
In a tweet storm Wednesday morning, Trump retaliated.
“Women’s soccer player, @mPinoe, just stated that she is ‘not going to the F…ing White House if we win’,” he said.
“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. The USA is doing GREAT!”
Rapinoe said that she found her voice as leader as a youngster.
“I think that this was more of me at five than at 14,” she said while the media laughed. “It was like five was my peak, went down, then went back up. That’s the life cycle of it. I don’t know exactly.”
Then she got serious.
“We come from a strong family that sort of instilled those values in us,” she said. “I think just naturally as a person I’m confident and sure of myself in that way. I have really amazing people around me in my family and my teammates and the team and the great staff and everyone who supports me in that way. I feel very empowered and emboldened by that. I’m also very aware of our platform as a team and how much impact that it has. It gives us a lot of confidence.
“Just to see the impact that we’ve had and seeing the way the sport has grown over at least the course of my career and just in general the way we have been able to effect change on society, I think it can’t help but give you confidence. So, maybe just emboldened that way. I think just me as a person, carefree and confident and that’s just the way it is.
“I like those big moments. Those are the most fun for me. If you play sport, if you want to be in this profession, it’s best to embrace those big moments. That’s where all the goods are. This is the best stage.”