A gloating Donald Trump has unexpectedly reignited his feud with soccer star Megan Rapinoe after the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) crashed out of the Women’s World Cup with a shock defeat by Sweden.
The reigning champions had not been at their best throughout the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, only narrowly escaping their group before losing 5-4 on penalties in a hard-fought battle against the Swedes on Sunday.
Rapinoe, a late substitute, was one of three players to miss a crucial spotkick.
The outcome was doubly cruel for the veteran winger as it came in what proved to be her final appearance for the USWNT, her glittering career on the world stage ending in bitter disappointment.
The 38-year-old, a prominent LGBT+ rights activist and campaigner for equal pay in the women’s game, had previously announced her plan to retire at the end of the domestic season, where she plays for OL Reign in Seattle, Washington.
Her misfortune was met with utter glee by the twice-impeached, thrice-indicted Mr Trump, who took a timeout from his myriad of legal problems to troll the team on Truth Social, suggesting their disappointing World Cup run was symptomatic of a broader national decline under President Joe Biden.
“The ‘shocking and totally unexpected’ loss by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to Sweden is fully emblematic of what is happening to the our [sic] once great Nation under Crooked Joe Biden,” Trump posted on Sunday evening.
“Many of our players were openly hostile to America - No other country behaved in such a manner, or even close. WOKE EQUALS FAILURE. Nice shot Megan, the USA is going to Hell!!! MAGA.”
Here’s a timeline of the war of the words between the Republican lawmaker and the soccer star:
Rapinoe first came to Trump’s attention just prior to the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France when she described herself in an interview with Yahoo! as a “walking protest against the Trump administration [because of] everything I stand for”.
She continued: “I feel like it’s kind of defiance in and of itself to just be who I am and wear the jersey, and represent it. Because I’m as talented as I am, I get to be here, you don’t get to tell me if I can be here or not.
“So it’s kind of a good ‘f*** you’ to any sort of inequality or bad sentiments that the [Trump] administration might have towards people who don’t look exactly like him. Which, God help us if we all looked like him. Scary. Really scary. Ahh, disturbing.”
What really piqued the then-president’s animosity towards the soccer star was a video interview Rapinoe gave to Eight by Eight magazine where she said she was “not going to the f***ing White House” in the event that the USWNT secured the World Cup win – an expression of the Californian’s deep-rooted disdain for the divisive policies of the Republican then occupying the Oval Office.
The interview was recorded that January but resurfaced in June 2019, when the tournament was in full swing.
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not going to the f***ing White House,” she said. “No. I’m not going to the White House, I don’t think we’ll be invited, I doubt it.”
She also advised her teammates to “think hard” before accepting any honours from Mr Trump’s administration.
The president – who had already expressed disapproval for her pointed silence during the national anthem before games – was left fuming by the clip.
He fired back against Rapinoe on Twitter, 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!
“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 said at a subsequent press conference that she stood by her comments “with the exception of the expletive… My mom would be very upset about that”.
When the USWNT did indeed win the cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands – with Rapinoe herself scoring from the penalty spot and being named player of the match – the soccer star stood by her word.
She did pay a visit to Washington – but only as a guest of progressive Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, a calculated snub to the blustering commander-in-chief.
In the immediate aftermath, she told Time magazine that she believed Mr Trump was secretly a fan of hers.
“You know he was watching that game. You know he had his McDonald’s lined up. And he was probably like, ‘You know what, I love that.’ I always felt Trump loved me,” she said.
Rapinoe also addressed him directly during an interview with CNN, telling him: “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of colour, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.
“You’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone. It might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world.
“You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone.”
She also joked about the prospect of running for the top job herself, commenting: “It’s an absolute honour to lead this team out on the field. There’s no other place I would rather be. Even in a presidential race. I’m busy, I’m sorry.”
Later reflecting on the spat with Mr Trump and the vicious comments she and her loved ones had been subjected to as a result, she told The Guardian: “It’s ridiculous and absurd. People were like: ‘That was so intense!’ And I’m like: ‘Honestly, he’s a f***ing joke, so it wasn’t intense, because this is ridiculous.’”
Speaking for herself and her twin sister Rachel, also a former professional footballer, Rapinoe added: “I wouldn’t say that we’re anti-authority, but when there’s a person who is abusing their power or manipulating people, whether it’s a teacher when I was younger or Donald Trump now, there’s nothing that fires me up and grinds my gears more. I was just like: ‘No. That’s not happening.’”
Intriguingly, she also said of her own father during that interview: “I think my dad voted for Trump and I’ll say: ‘I don’t get it. How are you simultaneously as proud as punch of me, and watching Fox News all the time [who are doing] takedowns of your daughter?’”
Since those glory days, Megan Rapinoe has continued to use her celebrity to campaign for social justice issues, endorsing Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren for president in December 2019 and hosting a panel event at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in support of frontline healthcare workers at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following her snub of the Trump administration, Rapinoe did finally come to the White House at the invitation of President Biden in March 2021 to speak about wage equality.
In July 2022, she was then awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Mr Biden – marking the highest possible civilian honour.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, has spent the same period camped out at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, plotting his political return, deriding his enemies online and wrangling lawyers as the state and federal investigations into his past continue.
On 6 August 2023, the USWNT crashed out of the World Cup following a disappointing penalty shootout.
While Rapinoe sobbed on pitch, Mr Trump took to Truth Social to gloat about the loss.
“Nice shot Megan, the USA is going to Hell!!!” he cruelly jabbed.
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