Commentary: Rapinoe far from disrespecting country or flag in this World Cup

Earlier this week, Megan Rapinoe admitted a mistake: She used an expletive in an interview six months ago.

“I’m not going to the (expletive) White House,” Rapinoe said, when asked if she was excited to go there if the U.S. won the Women’s World Cup.

When those comments surfaced, disdain and outrage for Rapinoe were fueled by President Trump’s reaction.

“Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her and the team,” the president said in a series of tweets.

Rapinoe then doubled down, saying “I stand by the comments that I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with exception of the expletive. My mom would be very upset about that.”

Aside from one foul word, I’m not sure where Rapinoe has showed intentional disrespect toward our flag or our country during this World Cup. While she’s opened herself up to criticism by kneeling during the anthem in the past, she has adhered to U.S. Soccer’s policy, standing for our national anthem throughout the event. Correct me if I’m wrong, but any other silent protests or expressing opposition to current policy does not automatically make her unpatriotic or disrespectful to her country or the flag.

Remember, Rapinoe has not been actively seeking attention. She has simply been answering questions from the media with truthful answers. And creating even more headlines with her incredible play, including two goals against France!

A few years back, Stanley Cup winning goalie, Tim Thomas and Super Bowl winning center, Matt Birk, declined White House invitations when their teams were honored by President Obama. Around the same time, three members of the 1972 Dolphins declined a visit, citing political differences with President Obama. Were those absences disrespectful to our country or to our flag? Or were they all simply demonstrating their rights as free American citizens by declining that invitation?

Frankly, the issue of politics in sports has always been there and will never go away. And until it is explicitly forbidden by governing bodies, it is absolutely within an athlete’s rights to use their spotlight and platform to promote their causes and their beliefs. Which is why I have no problem rooting for Rapinoe and Team USA in the World Cup. Because their priority in France is playing for this country. Playing for our flag. As representatives of the freedoms we hold so dear.

A kerfuffle over social media between athlete and president – whoever it may be – doesn’t change that. And nothing Megan Rapinoe has done or said during this event makes me any less excited to cheer or root for this American team. This American contingent – united by the common goal of representing their entire country on the world stage.

Again, there’s a big difference between disrespecting one’s country and hurting another person’s ego. I'm not here to debate the latter, but I strongly believe Megan Rapinoe is not guilty of the former.