The U.S. Women’s National soccer team won the World Cup title last Sunday, and like many of you, I was watching and pulling for them.
It’s unique to the World Cup and the Olympics that every four years, we get to pull for the USA in sporting events.
My patriotism comes out whenever the men’s soccer team, the women’s team or the athletes competing in the Olympics take on the world.
But the women’s run to the championship game was not without a quite a bit of controversy — in a couple of different ways.
Rapinoe grabs spotlight
First, there’s the star of the team, Megan Rapinoe, and the comments she’s made about the country that has offered an opportunity to play the sport she loves.
She’s said she will likely never sing the anthem again, and that her protests during the playing of the anthem were a “good (expletive) you” to the president.
She’s refused to honor her country by standing with her hand over her heart during the playing of the national anthem.
Rapinoe had been kneeling during the anthem, a la Colin Kaepernick, but at least she was standing for the last few games.
Video of an interview she had about six months ago surfaced in which she was asked if she was going to the White House to celebrate if the team won the World Cup.
“I’m not going to the (expletive) White House,” she said, in a smirky, snarky response to the question.
If you’ve seen it, maybe your blood boiled a bit like mine. It seemed to me to be disrespectful, rude and unappreciative of the position she’s in — playing on the best women’s soccer team in the world, the team that represents the USA — over the last two decades.
While watching the women beat England 2-1 in the semifinal to reach the finals against the Netherlands, I happened to be at a local establishment to catch the game.
The women played great, although it was a close and well-played game on both sides.
But the conversation from others watching the game did not center around the action on the field — but instead, around the fact that Rapinoe was not playing.
“Where’s that anti-American girl?” I overheard from a couple of women watching at the bar. “You know, the one with the purple hair who doesn’t like America.”
So, obviously I am not the only who felt that Rapinoe was being disrespectful.
Evidently myself and the woman watching the match the other day are not alone. The criticism has been so great that Rapinoe was forced to respond prior to the final, and the mainstream media coddled her in articles I’ve seen online.
“I think that I’m particularly and uniquely and very deeply American,” she said. “For the detractors … maybe you don’t agree with every single way I do it and that can be discussed.”
I don’t recall her discussing it before Rapinoe started her protest.
“She’s been a leader, on the field and off,” said one of the articles at the conclusion.
Refusing to honor the country that allows you to play soccer — for the national team — and using that country and its team to push your political agenda doesn’t strike me as leadership.
It strikes me as selfish, making the game about you and your political beliefs, not about the team.
I don’t watch sports to hear about what you think, or that you don’t like our current president.
I watch to see how you play — and while her play is impressive, it has been overshadowed by her comments and apparent disdain of the country for which she plays.
Just play soccer, Rapinoe. You can protest at another time.
The team also received criticism for what some saw as excessive celebration after goals in the tournament.
The critics were especially hard on the team and players after its 13-0 shellacking of Taiwan in the first round, saying that maybe the team should have taken it easy on an obviously overmatched squad.
The rout was exacerbated with celebrations from the American side on every goal.
I agree with a couple of the commentators for the broadcasts, who said that the tournament comes around every four years, that players have worked their whole lives for it and they deserve to celebrate.
They can’t help it if they are that much better than Taiwan, and taking it easy is not what sports is about.
It’s about competition, and if you don’t want to see the celebrations — then, very simply, play better.
Fellow team captain Alex Morgan also had to respond to critics when she pantomimed sipping from a cup of tea after the go-ahead goal over England in the semifinal win.
She maintained after the game that the celebration was an homage to some television show in England — maybe, but I think it was, at least partially, still a little dig at the English side.
That’s OK, but does it mean that the women lack class?
I don’t think so.
Come on, if we can’t have a little fun, why do we even play?
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette and a former correspondent for the H-Z.