US women’s soccer captain Megan Rapinoe challenged President Donald Trump on Tuesday night to start showing he cares for every single American, saying his message is excluding groups of Americans.
Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper with the World Cup trophy next to her, Rapinoe, who has transcended her role as a star athlete to become an outspoken advocate for gender equality and equal pay, made clear she will continue to take on Trump, who she has frequently criticized in past weeks.
“Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you,” Rapinoe said into the camera when asked by Cooper what she would say to Trump.
The back-to-back World Cup champion added to Cooper that “we need to have a reckoning” with the implications of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, because “you’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone – it might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world,” she said, still directing her message to the President.
“You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone,” Rapinoe added.
Rapinoe, who has described herself as a “walking protest,” has skyrocketed to national prominence for leading her team’s undefeated run to win the World Cup on Sunday, championing the lawsuit filed by 28 US Women’s National Team players demanding pay equal to the men’s team – and asserting that she would not be “going to the f*****g White House” if the women’s team won the World Cup. Her comments were made in January but became public only last month.
After their publication, Trump shot back, advising that Rapinoe “should WIN first before she talks!” and “Finish the job!”
“We haven’t yet invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose,” Trump added. “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.”
Addressing her controversial comments, Rapinoe expressed regret for swearing so much but stood by her decision not to go to the White House.
“I would not go, and every teammate that I’ve talked to explicitly about it would not go,” she said.
“I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked so hard to build, and the things that we fight for, and the way that we live our life – I don’t think that we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration,” Rapinoe told Cooper.
She added that allowing the White House to “put us on display” didn’t “make sense for us at all,” adding that “there are so many other people that I would rather talk to and have meaningful conversations that could really affect change in Washington than going to the White House.”
Asked earlier in the day if Trump would invite the team to the White House, adviser Kellyanne Conway said she knew of no plans, but added that she would “like to work” with Rapinoe on the opioid crisis. Rapinoe’s brother is a recovering heroin addict and she has been a vocal advocate.
Rapinoe accepted the invitations that she and the team have received from Democratic lawmakers – including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California – telling Cooper that based on conversations with her teammates, “everyone is interested in going to Washington.”
“This is such a special moment for us, and to be able to sort of leverage this moment and talk about the things that we want to talk about and to celebrate like this with the leaders of our country is an incredible moment,” she said. “So yes to AOC, yes to Nancy Pelosi, yes to the bipartisan Congress, yes to Chuck Schumer – yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real substantive conversation, and that believes in the same things that we believe in.”
This story has been updated to add the timing of when Trump responded to Rapinoe’s comments about visiting the White House.
CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf contributed to this report.