The most outspokenly political player on the U.S. team is Megan Rapinoe, who was no less political in 2019 when the U.S. women won the World Cup, with Rapinoe becoming the oldest woman to score a goal in a World Cup match and winning awards as the tournament’s top scorer and best player.
Apparently oblivious to the fact that Rapinoe scored two goals in this bronze medal match after scoring the deciding penalty shot in the U.S. match against the Netherlands that qualified them for the semifinals, Trump concluded, ”The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!”
Previously, Trump had encouraged a rally crowd to boo the team.
Republican politicians and media personalities have also trained their rage machine on a series of other Olympians in recent weeks. Most prominent among those was Simone Biles, whose decision to safeguard her own mental and physical health by pulling out of competition when she got what gymnasts call the “twisties” was attacked as unpardonable weakness and a failure of patriotism by people who would probably rupture something if they attempted a cartwheel.
A deputy attorney general of Texas called Biles a “selfish, childish national embarrassment.” Far-right pundit Charlie Kirk called Biles a “selfish sociopath.” Imagine, people who rail against being asked to protect others from a deadly virus by wearing a piece of cloth over part of their faces sometimes are calling a woman selfish because she didn’t want to run the very real risk of breaking her neck in a sporting competition. Biles wasn’t even taking a political stand, except to the extent that declaring a Black woman’s health worthy of concern is a political stand (which … yeah), yet Republicans were as outraged as if she’d burned a flag from the podium while wearing a “F#ck Trump” shirt.
Other cases of Olympians drawing Republican spite included a Newsmax host rooting against the U.S. men’s basketball team, and hammer thrower Gwen Berry coming under attack from a series of Republican politicians for standing silently while not facing the flag during the national anthem at the Olympic trials.
Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican Party. His leadership is toward a politics of personal insult, of feeling threatened by anyone—particularly anyone who’s not a straight white man—daring to speak out, quite simply of nastiness and rage. And Republicans are embracing it eagerly, including by targeting athletes at the pinnacle of their respective sports as they reach the moment they’ve worked toward for years.