Why everyone’s talking about Megan Rapinoe

US star lights up the Women’s World Cup after war of words with Donald Trump

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring her first goal in the quarter-final against France at Parc des Princes
(Image credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

England will be going up against one of the top scorers in the Women’s World Cup when they face holders the United States in the semi-final tomorrow.

US co-captain Megan Rapinoe scored twice against France on Friday, knocking the hosts out of the World Cup, and did the same against Spain four days earlier - making her the first player to score two goals in consecutive Women’s World Cup knockout games.

But while the 33-year-old’s footballing prowess is undoubted, she’s been winning admiration worldwide for other reasons too.

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What happened?

“Rapinoe, who came out as gay in 2012, is an advocate for numerous LGBT organisations, and described herself in an interview this year as ‘a walking protest’,” says the BBC.

The California-born player has been protesting against her country’s national anthem for the past three years in support of American footballer Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the song in a statement against racial oppression.

Asked by US magazine Eight by Eight if she was excited about a potential White House invitation if her team won the World Cup, Rapinoe replied: “Psssh, I’m not going to the f***ing White House. We’re not going to be invited.”

What was the response?

Footage of the video has gone viral and on Wednesday Donald Trump responded with a series of tweets.

“I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job! We haven’t yet invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose,” he wrote.

“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. The USA is doing GREAT!”

Martha Kelner, Sky News’ sport correspondent, says “Rapinoe has apologised for swearing but was otherwise unmoved”.

Kelner went on: “The forward has spent her career fighting for equality in pay and recognition in a sport where it is not forthcoming and doesn’t feel like the current administration aligns with her cause.”

On Friday, Rapinoe was proving herself once again, scoring her team’s two goals against France in the quarter-final - and a photo of her posing triumphantly with her arms outstretched “quickly set Twitter ablaze”, says CNN.

“Her glorious goal celebration has already been hailed as an ‘iconic’ moment in soccer and all sports,” says the broadcaster.

Inevitably the image was turned into a “Trump-trolling meme”, with tweeters suggesting her celebration “was the perfect clapback at the president”, says HuffPost.

What next?

Rapinoe and her team will play England in Lyon tomorrow, with the winner going through to the final against the Netherlands or Sweden on Sunday.

Whether the US win or not, Rapinoe is “the definition of patriotism”, claims Caitlin Murray, author of The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer.

“Rapinoe and the women’s national team are exactly the type of athletes - exactly the type of people - who should be welcomed into the White House,” says Murray on NBC News.

“But not out of spite or as part of some manufactured culture war from Trump, whose presidency has been built on such divisive stunts. Rapinoe and the women of the women’s national team couldn’t be better examples of patriots.”

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