U.S. women’s soccer start Megan Rapinoe expressed surprise on Saturday that her National Anthem protest proved so controversial, saying she thought people would give her a break because she’s a white woman.
Speaking on CNN’s “The Van Jones Show,” Rapinoe acknowledged that her decision to kneel during the salute to the American flag at the start of games had provoked widespread backlash despite her identity.
“I actually felt like it was going to be received a little better,” she told host Van Jones. “Like, OK, well, woman, white, sort of non-threatening. No, that was not the case.”
Rapinoe, a winger and co-captain on the World Cup-winning team, has said that she was inspired to take a knee by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the trend in 2016 to highlight what he deemed systemic discrimination against black Americans. American flags have since become the focus of a number of protests.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports last month, she explained that she wanted to bring awareness of the issue “to a totally different dynamic in different demographic of people and coming from someone you know, who looks like me.” She wondered why “more people didn’t kneel.”
“I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart,” Rapinoe said. “I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”
“Unless you don’t believe that that’s happening and if you really don’t believe that’s happening, there’s other issues,” she said. “You know mass incarceration’s happening. You know police brutality, you know the history of our country. For me, honestly it was kind of a no-brainer. I just feel like there was something that I could do, like going back to what I was saying about your personal responsibility to do something, I felt like I can do this.”
Megan Rapinoe: From National Anthem protester to president?
During the U.S. women’s march to World Cup victory, which they capped off on July 7 with a 2-0 defeat of the Netherlands, Rapinoe emerged as a feminist and LGBT icon. In addition to her National Anthem advocacy, she took frequent shots at President Donald Trump and demanded “equal pay” for her team relative to the men’s national squad.
At the team’s victory parade in New York last month, fans held signs urging Rapinoe to run for president.
Meanwhile, many conservatives quickly tired of Rapinoe’s relentless self-promotion.
A video of her at the parade showed her declaring of the World Cup trophy, “I deserve this!” Asked what else she deserved, Rapinoe responded, “Everything. Everything.”
Questioned sympathetically by Van Jones, Rapinoe agreed that it was “time for us to have a female president.”
“Of course you don’t want to say that ‘Oh, you know, we need to prop up a female so that she can be president,” she said to cheers from the studio audience. “But, like, there’s been so many that are qualified and overlooked.”
“Maybe it’s time for us as a country to just embrace a woman. Let’s just see what happens,” she continued. “Let’s take a step back, we’ll just see what happens. We can always just go back to no presidency.”
“See what happens, exactly,” agreed Jones, without addressing what she meant by “no presidency.”
However, when Jones asked if Rapinoe might become the fifth member of the “Squad,” she denied any political ambitions.
“No. I’m not going to run,” she said. “I’m, like, wildly unqualified to be running for office.”
Rapinoe supports the “Squad”
Asked to weigh in on Trump’s tweets saying that freshmen Democratic congresswomen, aka the “Squad,” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Rapinoe once against criticized Trump.
“It’s disgusting, to be honest. To say it’s disappointing is … it doesn’t even come close,” she said. “The more that we just are upset about it and don’t accept that kind of behavior from all sides, then the better place we’re going to be.”
On Tuesday, old tweets by two “Squad” members, Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, resurfaced in which they suggested their political opponents be deported.