Tuesday 16 July 2019

President dithers over White House visit for US World Cup champions

Disrespect: Megan Rapinoe said she would not accept an invitation to meet Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot
Disrespect: Megan Rapinoe said she would not accept an invitation to meet Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

Des Bieler

After the World Cup triumph by the US women's soccer team, President Donald Trump appeared to backtrack on a promise he made last month to invite the squad to the White House regardless of Sunday's outcome.

"We haven't really thought about it," Mr Trump said, according to 'Voice of America'.

"We'll look at that."

The squad won the global competition with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final at the weekend.

Last month, Mr Trump had tweeted: "We haven't yet invited Megan [Rapinoe] or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose."

Mr Trump made that comment while castigating Ms Rapinoe, a team co-captain who went on to be named the most valuable player of the World Cup.

"I'm not going to the f**king White House," Ms Rapinoe had said, in comments that went viral.

Presidents have long made a tradition of inviting teams to the White House after championship wins, but those occasions have come under scrutiny during the Trump administration.

Numerous athletes have said they would not go while he is in office.

Mr Trump went so far as to disinvite the NBA's Golden State Warriors and the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, while teams such as the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox have seen several players sit out the trip.

US soccer coach Jill Ellis was asked whether she would go to the White House after Sunday's win.

"I don't know," she said. "I haven't been invited, so I can't really say."

Told that an invitation would very likely be forthcoming, Ms Ellis said: "Well, I wouldn't bet on that."

In remarks recorded in May and published last month, which included the viral comment, Ms Rapinoe had said she doubted the team would be invited.

"Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!" Mr Trump tweeted at the time.

Appearing to offer another criticism of Ms Rapinoe's decision to stand silently in protest during the national anthem, he added: "Megan should never disrespect our country, the White House, or our flag, especially since so much has been done for her and the team."

On Twitter, her fellow player Ali Krieger fired back at Mr Trump and defended her teammate.

"In regards to the 'President's' tweet today, I know women who you cannot control or grope anger you, but I stand by [Megan Rapinoe] and will sit this one out as well," she wrote.

Ms Krieger added: "I don't support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants and our most vulnerable."

In an interview last week with CNN, Ms Krieger said she would "absolutely not" go to the White House if the US women's team were invited.

"I refuse to respect a man that warrants no respect," Ms Krieger said.

"I refuse to just sit back and watch an abuser, a bully, talk like that to my friend.

"I support her as a friend, and I wanted to make sure that I said something that meant something to me, and was important to me."

Ms Rapinoe told reporters last week that she stood by her comments about the White House visit.

"With the exception of the expletive," she added. "My mom will be very upset about that."

Ms Rapinoe said that she hadn't spoken to all her teammates about a possible White House trip but that she would "suspect not many, if any, of the other players" would be inclined to go.

About two hours after the World Cup win Sunday, Mr Trump tweeted his congratulations.

"Great and exciting play," he wrote. "America is proud of you all!"

© Washington Post

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