During media availability at the World Cup on Wednesday, U.S. women's national team star Megan Rapinoe was asked about what it feels like to be an American playing on the U.S. women's national team during the World Cup.
"I think I'm particularly and uniquely and very deeply American," Rapinoe told assembled media on Wednesday. "If we want to talk about the ideals that we stand for, the song and the anthem, and what we were founded on. I think I'm extremely American."
She continued: "I know that I'm not perfect. But I think that I stand for honesty and for truth and for wanting to have the conversation. Looking at the country honestly and saying, yes, we are a great country, and there are many things that are so amazing and I feel very fortunate to be in this country. I would never be able to do this in a lot of other places. But also: that doesn't mean we can't get better. It doesn't mean we shouldn't always strive to be better. I think that this country was founded on a lot of good ideals but it was also founded on slavery. And I think we just need to be really honest about that and be really open in talking about that so we can reconcile that and hopefully move forward and make this country better for everyone."
The 33-year-old soccer star was one of the first players–and the first white or female athlete–to join former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem in 2016. Rapinoe continued to do so for three games and explained her reasoning in a post on The Players Tribune, titled "Why I Am Kneeling." until U.S. Soccer enacted a new policy mandating that players "stand respectfully" during the anthem in March 2017. Rapinoe faced criticism after people tried to call her out for how she's handled herself during the national anthem at the World Cup, referring to herself as a "walking protest."
Rapinoe's partner, WNBA star Sue Bird, also addressed the criticism when she wrote about how Rapinoe has been "completely unphased" by President Trump's remarks and the controversy that has surrounded her partner during the World Cup on Tuesday for The Players Tribune.
"When all the Trump business started to go down last week, I mean—the fact that Megan just seemed completely unfazed? It’s strange to say, but that was probably the only normal thing about it," Bird wrote. "It’s not an act with (Rapinoe). It’s not a deflection. To me, it’s more just like: Megan is at the boss level in the video game of knowing herself."
Rapinoe made headlines last week after an old interview went viral on social media. The interview, which was filmed before the tournament, featured Rapinoe saying she is "not going to the f------ White House" if the USWNT win the World Cup. She had expressed a similar sentiment during an interview with Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas ahead of the World Cup.
President Trump issued a three-thread tweet in response to Rapinoe's comments, saying "Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team." While Trump invited the team to the White House win or lose, Rapinoe stood by her comments.
Rapinoe was also invited to Washington by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to tour the House of Representatives at the conclusion of the World Cup and by Senator Kamala Harris, who extended an invitation for the team to tour the Senate.
Rapinoe has been an advocate for equality as well as LGBTQ rights since she came out publicly in 2012. She did not play in the U.S. women's national team's 2–1 win against England on Tuesday in the Women's World Cup semifinals in France due to what she confirmed to be a minor hamstring strain. Rapinoe added that she feels like she will be ready for the Final, where the USWNT will take on the winner of Sweden and the Netherlands on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.