Attacking US women’s football team not for missed penalty kick but for using free speech

 Attacking US women’s football team not for missed penalty kick but for using free speech

This is how a missed penalty kick has become a tool for conservative republicans in the US. Ex-president Donald Trump took the lead. Shortly after the US women’s national team (USWNT) was defeated after missed penalty kicks in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, he attacked US star Megan Rapinoe, who missed a penalty kick in the quarter finals against the Swedish team, writing the loss is “ fully emblematic of what is happening to our great Nation under Crooked Joe Biden”.

“Many of our players were openly hostile to America — no other country behaved in such a manner, or even close,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “WOKE EQUALS FAILURE. Nice shot, Megan, the U.S. is going to Hell!!! MAGA.”

Rapinoe has been an LGBTQ+ advocate and in 2019 refused to visit the White House to celebrate the team’s at that time victories. 

Poynter Institute’s senior media commentator, Tom Jones, writes that it was “not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless, to see some of the reaction to the US. loss. 

“There’s nothing wrong with criticizing the team for not playing well.  But some conservative commentators seemed to take joy in the US’s elimination because of off-the-field topics.”

Some of his examples:

Fox News’ Will Cain tweeted, “I always pull for Team USA. All sports. And I really don’t take joy in the earliest elimination ever for the USWNT. But this team came to be defined by arrogant celebrity activists who went out of their way to exhibit shame in the US, begin the process of destroying their own sport (advocating for men to play women’s sports) and curry victimization with false narratives about equal pay. Nobody made it harder to root for them than the USWNT. There are women on this team who have  poured their heart and soul and sweat into this team for the US. Who are proud Americans focused on soccer. I hope those players define the future of the USWNT.”

Clay Travis, the conservative radio host and podcaster, also mentioned politics in a tweet, saying the women have gone from a team “the entire country loved” in 2015 to a “far left wing politics-laden team that barely made the top 16 eight years later.” He added they were “an unmitigated disaster.”

It seems Cain and Travis, and hundreds of their followers who commented on those tweets, have particular issues with Rapinoe. (Search Rapinoe’s name on Twitter if you really want to see what many so-called “patriots” think of her.), Tom Jones writes.

“One conservative commentator tweeted, “I’m glad they lost,” adding they were “America-hating, entitled, ungrateful group.” Another said, “I would root for Al Qaeda before I’d root for this American Women’s Soccer Team. … They are the sports version of Antifa.” Podcaster Jason Whitlock, who used to be a decent sportswriter, tweeted during the match, “We got a chance. PKs. Let’s go Sweden!”

Jones notes that Rapinoe and others have spoken up on diversity, equity and inclusion issues “and, I guess, that doesn’t line up with their brand of politics.” 

He writes it was disappointing, although not at all surprising, to see so many openly rejoiced that a team representing America had been eliminated. “All because players used their First Amendment rights to speak up about issues they care about.”


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