Megan Rapinoe, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team star midfielder and all-around badass, doesn’t exactly come across as a Trump supporter.
She does share one thing in common with the President, though - the awareness and ability to take advantage of a moment. Currently, at the height of her powers, Rapinoe and the USWNT have used their time in the limelight to force the issue on a number of social injustices they stand against, refusing to back down regardless of how loud their critics’ voices grow.
Given this social action, Rapinoe and her teammates’ decision to pre-empt a potential invite to the White House with a firm rejection feels like a miss.
In a January interview with Eight by Eight, a soccer magazine, Rapino shut down any chance of a USWNT visit to the White House: “I’m not going to the f*****g White House. No. I’m not going to the White House. We’re not gonna be invited. I doubt it.”
The rejection went viral shortly after it was released, and caused the expected uproar in Washington D.C. In a series of tweets, President Trump went on to insinuate that Rapinoe and USWNT are disrespectful and not proud to represent the flag they wear on their jerseys.
Not to mention the original Twitter thread had the wrong Megan Rapinoe tagged. You’d think Trump would be a Twitter champ, no?
On the surface, it makes sense why they’d reject an invite, since they’re diametrically opposed to everything Trump stands for. But for a team savvy enough to create a never-ending stream of viral moments, they may have passed up the perfect chance to turn this potential rendezvous into more than just a photo-op.
If Trump really was offering the chance to visit him on his home turf, they should have said yes - only with some conditions. Instead of a Rose Garden fake tribute, force the man to sit down at a table, surrounded by a group of powerful, prominent women, and finally have a proper conversation about pay equity. Instead of slapping on a fake smile and pretending to be on the same page when it comes to social injustice, use a potential visit to hold an open conversation on how to create change.
Don’t just visit the White House. Visit and hold a Women in Sports summit where Trump and ranking members of Congress come together with the most visible and influential female athletes with one message - pay them properly.
Invite Billie Jean King. Invite Serena Williams. Bring AOC, Nancy Pelosi, and Sue Bird. Bring members of the #ForTheGame movement, Aly Raisman, and female sports journalists like Alex Curry, Erin Andrews, and Hannah Storm. Surround Trump with what he seems to fear most - a bevy of strong, powerful women unafraid to speak truth to him.
At a summit like this, they’d have more than plenty to talk about.
The most obvious would be the USWNT’s recent lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for unequal pay and gender discrimination. The team has continued to be undermined when it comes to what is expected of them and how little they get in return.
According to a recent GrandStand Central story, the WNBA pays only 20 percent of its revenue to players, a pittance compared with the NBA’s 50 percent player share. To help supplement their income, many WNBA players travel overseas during the offseason to compete. They could talk about that too.
Women’s surfing has been swimming under the radar but making huge waves when it comes to equal pay for both male and female surfers. In 2016, CEWS, Commission for Equity in Women’s Surfing, was founded and within three years the World Surf League “announced equal prize money for all WSL-controlled events,” which is a first. That would also be on the agenda.
Trump himself has said that he’s unsure if the USWNT should be paid the same, and here is the perfect avenue to discuss not only women’s soccer but other organizations that have been receiving the short end of the stick.
For the most visible female athletes to unite in perhaps the most powerful spot in the nation would definitely make a statement.
Rapinoe is self-described as a walking protest but is the definition of American patriotism. This summer she has been the billboard for women in sports and is the type of person who should be leading a White House summit.