"I believe we should always value the use of our voice and platform to fight for equality of every kind,” Rapinoe has said

By Rachel DeSantis
June 25, 2019 04:39 PM
President Donald Trump (L) and Megan Rapinoe
Max Mumby/Getty; Marcio Machado/Getty

Just as he did during Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest in the NFL, President Donald Trump is criticizing soccer star Megan Rapinoe’s decision to stay silent during the national anthem as her team heads into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

Rapinoe, co-captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team, has declined to sing along with her teammates as “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays before each match.

Trump, 73, told The Hill this week that he did not find her protest — which is meant to highlight racial injustice and police misconduct in America — appropriate. But he did praise the rest of her team.

“I love watching women’s soccer,” he said. “They’re really talented.”

Rapinoe, 33, followed the lead of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick in 2016 by kneeling during the anthem.

“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street,” she wrote in an essay for The Players’ Tribune. “But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache.”

According to Yahoo Sports, Rapinoe was the first white athlete and the first female athlete to kneel.

The U.S. Soccer Federation, however, fought back against her protest, releasing a statement that claimed it had an “expectation” for its players to stand and later enacting a policy that required them to do so in March 2017, ESPN reported.

Rapinoe responded with a statement of her own, agreeing to follow the new rules.

“That said, I believe we should always value the use of our voice and platform to fight for equality of every kind,” she said, according to ESPN.

Even so, she told Yahoo Sports in May: “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart. I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”

Megan Rapinoe (right)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

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Rapinoe also offered some choice words for Trump in that same interview, calling him “sexist,” “misogynistic,” “small-minded,” “racist” and “not a good person.” She said she was a “walking protest when it comes to the Trump administration.”

His criticism of her silence is not the first time he’s slammed the #TakeAKnee movement, which was launched by Kaepernick in 2016.

“You can’t be kneeling for the national anthem. You have to respect our flag and our country. I want that as president and I’d want that as a citizen,” he told CBS This Morning in February.

Colin Kaepernick (center)

In his Hill interview this week, Trump said he was not informed enough about pay discrimination between men and women in soccer to take a position.

More than two dozen members of the U.S. women’s national team filed suite against the USSF in March for gender discrimination, claiming they were paid less than men.

Rapinoe, along with stars like Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, was named as a plaintiff in the suit.

The Wall Street Journal obtained audited financial statements from the USSF earlier this month that found that from 2016 to 2018, women’s games pulled in nearly $1 million more in revenue than men’s games.

A rep for Rapinoe did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.