RAPINOE VS. TRUMP


As the U.S. women's soccer team heads into Tuesday's World Cup semifinal vs. England, I have just one definite thought: I want them to win.

Beyond that, it's an emotional kaleidoscope.

Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. team has every right to protest as she is, and say what she did. Same goes for teammates who have chimed in. It isn't distracting the U.S. team, or Rapinoe. It's toughest foe disposed of, the U.S. is a near-lock to win a second straight World Cup. Rapinoe is on fire, scoring all four U.S. goals in the team's two knockout-round wins.

But it has taken much of the focus off what the U.S. women are doing and placed it on the perceived feud between Rapinoe and Trump.

Before the U.S. dumped France 2-1 in Friday's quarterfinal, an entire page of USA Today's sports section was filled with two columns that can best be described as anti-Trump political screeds. (Nothing is worse than sportswriters waxing political, as I am doubtless proving.)

The opinions aren't necessarily bothersome. But the games have been pushed to the side by some, or used as a platform to fight the ongoing war between the left and right.

I watch sports to get away from that. In this case, I can't. It's impossible.

Rapinoe sniping with Trump doesn't bother Trump at all. Quite the opposite. It's what he lives for.

Comic legend Eric Idle tweeted, "Rapinoe 2, Trump 0." Nobody's funnier than Idle, but Rapinoe didn't score twice against France to spite Trump, nor did she need or use that motivation. She's just trying to win the World Cup.

Rapinoe's stance has zero tangible impact.

It's not like Trump's objectionable qualities (perceived or otherwise) have been kept secret 'til now. It's not like debate in that regard needs jump-started. Haven't people made up their minds about Trump by now?

Rapinoe's protests aren't what's needed. What's needed is a credible opposing candidate and organized opposing platform. Neither of those would appear to be arriving imminently.

I am not anti-Rapinoe. Not in the least. I agree with her concerns.

But win the World Cup first. Trump got that right. Why not protest in the immediate aftermath? It worked for Tommie Smith and John Carlos. (Actually, it didn't. Those problems still haven't been solved. But Smith and Carlos are heroes.)

The sideshow has made it tougher to enjoy the tournament.

Too bad, right?

There's a bigger picture, right?

Not for me, there isn't. I hold big-time sporting events in great reverence.

If that makes me shallow, at least I'm not stupid enough to believe what's done or said at a sporting event is going to resonate in a palpable way. What did Smith and Carlos fix? What did Colin Kaepernick fix? Good PR, the best intentions, heightened awareness, some money spent in good places: All that happened.

But what got fixed?

Don't tell me to be patient. We've been waiting a long time, and not enough is getting fixed.

The U.S. is going to win the World Cup. It will mark the first time the U.S. wins twice in a row. This is arguably the best U.S. team ever. As Ali Krieger said, their subs may be the world's second-best team.

But the minute the final ends, the players (especially Rapinoe) will be bombarded with questions about Trump and visiting the White House. That will be the story, or at least the No. 1 sidebar.

That's on Rapinoe. I'm good with what she did. But it shouldn't be the aftermath of winning the World Cup.

Perhaps it would have been anyway. That's how the landscape is right now.

France v USA: Quarter Final  - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France

France v USA: Quarter Final - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France

Courtesy of Getty Images.

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