I watched part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup final on Sunday with my seven-year-old daughter. She had no idea that the captain of the American team, Megan Rapinoe, had refused to sing the national anthem or even to place her hand over her heart.
We missed that part, and I would have skipped it anyway.
Nor did my daughter know that Rapinoe had trashed President Donald Trump (whom my daughter likes), and rejected the idea of visiting the White House if the U.S. team took home the trophy.
My daughter did not need to know all that. I just wanted her to see a team of American women succeeding on the world stage.
And they played marvelously, with great strength and skill, and with a rhythm that our men’s team seems unable to muster. My daughter was inspired by their example, and asked if she could attend a soccer camp to learn how to play.
So far, so good, I thought. You can still enjoy sports if you can edit out the politics and focus on the game.
Then there was the victory parade in New York City, where Rapino used the F-word on live television in her speech.
Well, all right. She was excited — and hadn’t Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti done the same when the Kings won the Stanley Cup? That wasn’t OK, either, but I suppose equality means the right to be equally profane, so — hooray.
Not to be outdone, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris filmed herself during the parade repeatedly using the word “bitch.”
And at some point in the parade, Rapinoe perched the trophy on her knee and proclaimed: “I deserve this!” She was joking — or drunk.
I, not we. She didn’t earn it, or win it; she deserved it.
I don’t know what she meant, but it was impossible not to think of that moment, earlier in the tournament, where the U.S. women’s team not only ran up a 13-0 score against a much weaker Thai team, but indulged in excessive celebrations. (If you criticized that, you were a “hater,” apparently.)
There are two problems here.
One is that the soccer team, and some of its “woke” fans, seem to believe that the idea of women’s empowerment depends on the degradation of others.
Some boundaries ought to be challenged: unequal pay, for example. The fact that there are innocent (i.e. non-discriminatory) reasons that female players take home less cash than male players does not make it right. The U.S. women deserve to be paid more, arguably, given their four titles.
Yet some boundaries, like good sportsmanship (if one can forgive such a masculine, cis-gender term), are there for a good reason.
We know athletes aren’t always role models in their private lives. But here, much of the audience consists of children and young adults. The fans deserve better.
The other problem appears to be peculiar to the world of LGBT athletes. Rapinoe, like U.S. Olympic figure skater Mark Rippon, who attacked Vice President Mike Pence last year, seems deeply invested in the idea that the rest of the country hates them.
Clinging to victim status is the opposite of empowerment.
Rapinoe descended into self-parody on CNN on Tuesday, when she said that “Make America Great Again” meant “excluding people that look like me.” It might have been the first time a left-wing celebrity accused President Trump of discriminating against white people.
Perhaps those of us who support the president have no business complaining about public figures who use foul language and gloat over their victories.
But there is a key difference between Trump and Rapinoe: Trump does not deliberately disrespect the flag or the anthem. He does not hate the country.
Ironically, Rapinoe is proving Trump’s point. There is no other country in the world where the captain of a national team can trash the country on the world stage and still be welcomed home.
It’s a testimony, in a backhanded way, to America’s greatness. Unfortunately, it’s not a spectacle many of us want our daughters to see. What a wasted opportunity.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.