The 2019 FIFA World Cup is in full swing and the U.S. Women's National Team is absolutely dominating the field. But this year's matches aren't just about soccer. Some players are also incorporating their off-field politics onto the field and bringing attention to important issues that matter in athletics and beyond. One U.S. player, co-captain Megan Rapinoe, is bringing her politics into the World Cup by protesting during the national anthem and, unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump has an opinion on that. Donald Trump's comments about Megan Rapinoe's anthem protest are reminiscent of his previous opinions and stances on the topic.
During the course of the World Cup, which kicked off in France June 7, Rapinoe has publicly and obviously declined to sing along or put her hand over her heart during the national anthem. In fact, Rapinoe hasn't participated in the anthem since 2016, according to Today, in solidarity with protests against police brutality and the Trump administration. While Rapinoe previously knelt as a form of protest, U.S. Soccer amended its rules in 2017 to require all players to "stand respectfully" during the anthem.
Unsuprisingly, the president doesn't like it. In an interview with The Hill published on Monday, June 24, Donald Trump shared that he didn't think it was appropriate for Rapinoe to protest during the national anthem. When asked about whether he thought Rapinoe's protest during the national anthem was appropriate, Trump told The Hill, "No. I don’t think so."
Trump's stance on athletes protesting is nothing new — the president repeatedly targeted Colin Kaepernick when he would kneel to highlight injustices against black Americans and other minorities during his time as the 49ers quarterback. At a 2018 rally in Alabama, Trump told the crowd that he wished athletes could get fired for kneeling and protesting, saying, "Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired.'"
Rapinoe has been kneeling during "The Star Spangled Banner" and protesting injustice for several years. In 2016, she took a knee ahead of several games against teams from the Netherlands and Thailand and told ESPN that her decision to kneel felt "appropriate," despite being divisive among sports fans.
In a 2016 blog post she wrote for the Players Tribune called "Why I'm Kneeling," Rapinoe highlighted over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality, and inequality as some of the reasons she felt she needed to protest, even though she hadn't experienced those things herself. She wrote, "I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache."
In addition to racial injustice, Rapinoe and her teammates have taken a stance against income inequality. The U.S. Soccer Federation's (USSF) 2015 financial report revealed that male U.S. soccer players earned four times what members of the women's team earned. In March 2019, all 28 members of the U.S. women's team filed a lawsuit against the USSF alleging discrimination in pay based on gender. In response to the lawsuit, the USSF president Carlos Cordeiro said, "Our mutual goal is a dialogue that will serve the best interests of the USWNT and U.S. Soccer." He added that he believes female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay. On June 22, the two sides tentatively agreed to pursue mediation following the World Cup, per CBS News.
When asked in the June 24, 2019, interview with The Hill about whether women's soccer players should receive the same pay as their male counterparts, Trump said, "I'd have to look at it."
Despite leveling criticism at Rapinoe for her protests, Trump told The Hill that he loves watching women's soccer and thinks the player's are all very talented. Though Rapinoe has yet to respond to Trump's recent comments, she has previously stated she's a "walking protest" against the Trump administration.