Megan Rapinoe has been at the center of the storm surrounding the USWNT’s World Cup exit after being criticized for laughing at her own missed penalty.
The 38-year-old blue-haired liberal veteran missed a game-winning kick in a penalty shootout against Sweden, which the USWNT eventually lost to be eliminated, signaling the end of their final game World Cup with the Stars and Stripes.
Rapinoe made waves as she appeared to laugh and smile as she returned to the halfway line after tossing the ball over the bar – her final contribution in a Stars and Stripes jersey as she retired.
It’s a far cry from the headlines surrounding Rapinoe and the USWNT in the last edition of the tournament.
She was the co-captain of the USWNT which had just won its second World Cup on the spot. She also left France as the tournament’s top scorer, with six goals.
Megan Rapinoe has been at the center of the storm surrounding the USWNT World Cup exit
She’s graced magazine covers, starred in ad campaigns, and even been named Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportswoman of the Year.
But even then, Rapinoe was already a polarizing figure.
Rapinoe took the knee during the national anthem in 2016, becoming one of the first white athletes to do so.
She first did it in September 2016, in an NWSL game between Chicago and Seattle in support of Colin Kaepernick.
Later that month, she continued her protest ahead of a United States friendly against Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.
Her actions prompted US Soccer to issue a statement indicating its disapproval without directly naming her.
“We expect our players and coaches to stand and honor our flag as the national anthem is played,” it read.
The next game, the Atlanta crowd booed her as she came on as a second-half substitute, and she was asked not to dress for the next two games.
The football veteran took the knee for the first time during the national anthem in September 2016
It made her one of the first white athletes to take the knee in support of Colin Kaepernick
The following year, she was apparently thrown into exile from the national team as she was left out for the annual SheBelives Cup held in the United States.
Rapinoe said Time that she felt the team was “happy to just let me go to pasture”.
Former teammate Hope Solo has since accused Rapinoe of bullying other members of Team USA into kneeling.
“I’ve seen Megan Rapinoe almost intimidate players into kneeling because she really wants to defend something in her own way,” Solo told Goal.com in 2021.
The controversy continued at the following World Cup in 2019. Although Rapinoe did not kneel throughout the tournament, she refused to sing the national anthem with her arms dangling alongside rather than across from his heart.
However, the backlash directed at Rapinoe intensified when a six-month-old clip of Rapinoe recounting the obscure Eight by Eight outlet; “I’m not going to the (expletive) White House”.
Winning American sports teams are often invited to the White House in honor and in recognition of their victory.
Rapinoe had accepted the invitation after the USWNT triumphed in 2015 under the Obama administration.
Rapinoe sparked a feud with Donald Trump when she said she wouldn’t be running for the White House
The then president took to Twitter to criticize Rapinoe during the 2019 World Cup
But his rejection of a potential offer from Obama’s predecessor drew criticism – including from then-President Donald Trump himself.
Trump tweeted that Rapinoe “should never disrespect our country, the White House or our flag, especially since so much has been done for her and the team.”
Victoria’s Secret even announced Rapinoe as part of its efforts to revamp her image amid criticism of her from angels and models.
“We are proud to bring together an unprecedented group of pioneering partners who share a common goal to drive positive change,” the company said in a statement.
“These extraordinary partners, with their unique backgrounds, interests and passions, will work with us to create groundbreaking product collections, engaging and inspiring content, new internal associate programs, and rally support for vital causes for women.”
After being unveiled as the new face of the lingerie brand, Rapinoe told The New York Times that the Victoria’s Secret alum was “patriarchal, sexist, seeing not just what it meant to be sexy, but what the clothes were trying to accomplish through a male lens and by what men desired.
Rapinoe was the face of Victoria’s Secret rebranding after the company came under fire
“And it was heavily marketed to young women,” which promoted a “really harmful” message.
But Rapinoe found herself in hot water when one of her old tweets resurfaced.
She came under fire when a 2011 tweet was revealed in which she mocked someone for looking “Asian” because of her eyes.
Rapinoe allegedly sent the tweet to former professional soccer player and Olympic gold medalist Natasha Kai – who is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino and Caucasian descent, according to Sports Room.
‘you look asian with those eyes closed!’ Rapinoe wrote in the tweet on May 19, 2011.
The account that allegedly belonged to Kai no longer existed and it was unclear what the Rapinoe tweet was responding to included. Kai has another Twitter account that she opened in 2016 that hasn’t been posted since 2018.
With equal pay for the USWNT in the bag, Rapinoe has recently turned her attention to the struggle of transgender athletes.
She started fighting to protect the rights of transgender athletes, whom she said she would welcome to the national team.
“Absolutely,” she told Time. “You’re taking the place of a ‘real’ woman” is the part of the argument that’s still extremely transphobic. I see trans women as real women. What you automatically say in the argument—you’re already talking about yourself—is that you don’t believe these people are women. Therefore, they take the other place. I don’t feel like that.
In the tweet, Rapinoe made fun of someone for looking “Asian” because of their eyes.
Rapinoe is believed to have directed the tweet at former professional soccer player and Olympic gold medalist Natasha Kai – who is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino and Caucasian descent.
Since her rise to fame, Rapinoe has used her platform – given to her by her efforts on the pitch – to solve problems off the pitch.
But the louder his voice became and the more his causes differed from the opinions of the majority of Americans, the bigger the target on his back grew.
And with the shock USA’s early exit, with Rapinoe’s missed penalty and ensuing smirk, came fan frustration that they were only happy to lead the character they already love. to hate.
The noise she makes off the field actually hurts her efforts.
People who disagree with his crusades away from the beautiful game find it hard to look beyond their differences to see his talent.
What’s more, it apparently spread to the team, with Rapinoe being accused of “poisoning” her teammates by Megyn Kelly.
It seems the louder and more arrogant Rapinoe’s off-court screams become, the more they drown out the good she’s done for the sport.
And, after four years, America seems tired of turning victory into victimization.