UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Athletes who diss U.S. don’t deserve support

That penalty kick by Megan Rapinoe that sailed high over the goal at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup—leading to the elimination of the United States team from contention for its third straight World Cup title—seemed like poetic justice to me.

And I am not alone.

Many ordinary citizens I’ve encountered since then said they weren’t sorry the Americans were ousted by Sweden, adding that they weren’t even watching the U.S. team’s games—all because of Rapinoe.

Television personality Megyn Kelly commented:  “She poisoned the entire team against the country for which they play.”

Donald Trump, not surprisingly, agreed.

“Many of our players were openly hostile to America—No other country behaved in such a manner, or even close.”

Politics aside, I need someone to explain to me how anyone representing this country should be allowed to disrespect it so openly on the international stage. And why we should spend a dime in support of them.

My attitude is: If that’s how you feel about this country, don’t bother to pretend that you’re playing for it. Don’t bother to show up. Let someone who appreciates the Red, White and Blue take your place.

I feel the same way about Olympic athletes who choose the medal stand to “make a statement.” Shot putter Raven Saunders is a recent example. She won silver in Tokyo then crossed her arms in the shape of an X above her head in defiance of the International Olympic Committee’s ban on protests during medal ceremonies.

It took 10 months in a Russian jail, but Brittney Griner apparently now gets it. 

In 2020, in case you’ve forgotten, Griner and a teammate called for the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) to stop playing the U.S. national anthem before games. She said her position was, in part, in support of the George Floyd protests (though she didn’t acknowledge that they were violent and destructive).

Two years later, in February 2022, she was detained in Russia after hash oil was found in her luggage.   In December that year she was traded for a Russian arms dealer known as “the merchant of death.” 

Following her return, she stated that her experiences in Russia led her to appreciate the “uniquely American freedoms” that so many take for granted or overlook. Her agent said she’d henceforth stand as the Star Spangled Banner is played before every WNBA game.


Alongside Griner is Rapinoe, who has been protesting America since at least 2016. That’s when she took a knee during the national anthem before an international match—in solidarity, she later said, with former pro football player Colin Kaepernick, who earlier had made himself a protest symbol by kneeling during the anthem before NFL games.

“It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it,” she explained.

In response, U.S. Soccer issued a statement that, in part, read:

“As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played.”

To which Rapinoe replied in an interview: “Using this blanketed patriotism as a defense against what the protest actually is was pretty cowardly.” She also declared that she would probably never sing the national anthem again.

Don’t you wonder if some time in a Russian jail would change her view of America, as it did Griner’s?

Rapinoe is 38 years old, so her lack of patriotism can’t be attributed to misguided youth.

She’s an advocate for allowing transgender women (i.e. men) to play women’s soccer. Maybe that’s because she’s better than a lot of male soccer players.

She’s been playing soccer for most of her life and has been at the forefront of the campaign to get U.S. Soccer to pay their women soccer players as much as their male counterparts (which is now the case, as it should be).

Rapinoe announced that she would be retiring after this World Cup, so presumably her soccer career is at an end. Though surely not her activism.

Missing her last chance to score a goal may not be the way she envisioned going out. But that disappointment is eased in a uniquely American way.

Members of the U.S. team will share in a $3.25 million paycheck despite the upset loss.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 15 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.