Megan Rapinoe's Antics Are Going to Turn Americans Off Women's Soccer | Opinion

Someone needs to remind Megan Rapinoe that when you play for America's team, you play for America. She seems to have forgotten that and, for this regular American, it's getting embarrassing.

The U.S. women's recent victory over the Netherlands in the finals of the World Cup is one among a series of accomplishments of which we should all be proud. Instead, the focus has been on Rapinoe, who has consistently and perhaps deliberately gone out of her way to distinguish herself from the other players on America's remarkable national soccer team.

That's not the way it should be. There's no "I" in team—and it has been her off-screen antics, rather than her accomplishments on the field, that have made her stand out. That's an insult to all the other members of the team, even if they have the grace not to say so.

Someone should say something because Rapinoe, as a member of America's team, represents us all. She's a symbol of the nation, just not a very positive one. It's not the purple hair or the fact that she's out and proud that's disturbing to most—despite what some people have claimed. Nor is it her propensity to inject profanity into her remarks, such as when she dropped the mother of all "F-bombs" Wednesday on live television. It's not even her repeated dissing of President Donald Trump that has my hackles standing on end. No, what bothers me most is the way she has consistently shown little respect for the nation she opted to represent as a member of the U.S. team.

The national anthem is America's song. When it's played, she takes a knee. The American flag is the symbol of "the republic, for which it stands." During the victory celebration on Sunday, she carelessly let it drop to the ground, which, even if by accident, is considered profoundly disrespectful. If she's not proud to be an American, and if she said she is I missed it, she shouldn't have signed up for the team. She's not able to handle the responsibility.

Sure, we're a nation of dissenters. She's just the latest in a very long line. She's just like Colin Kaepernick, some say. But they're missing an important point. Kaepernick, who used to quarterback the San Francisco 49ers, played for one team of many in the NFL, all privately owned. There's only one women's national soccer team—and conceptually it belongs to us all.

The blowback against Rapinoe's antics is unsurprising, but it's likely not motivated by anything more than America's dislike for mixing sports and politics except as an expression of pro-American sentiment. We cheer our winning decathlete at the Olympics, cheer the national team on to victory in the World Cup and put the best figure skater on the Wheaties box precisely because their medals and accolades are a reflection of our innate pride in ourselves. They're a visible manifestation of our belief in American exceptionalism, that we are the greatest country in the history of mankind.

Rapinoe has chosen to ignore that, throwing in with those who believe the resistance, as they call it, is right, that there's something wrong with "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet." She's chosen to be "edgy" because that's what corporate America thinks sells product, especially to young people with lots of their parents' dollars to spend.

It would be nice if they were wrong. They're not. The resistance culture is hip, dominant and all that with a bag of chips. And if that means hating traditional America because Trump loves traditional America, then so be it. Everything now is a forum for politics because they're fighting for the soul of America—and, sad to say, they may be winning.

Megan Rapinoe New York Parade
USA women's soccer player Megan Rapinoe holds the trophy in front of the City Hall after a ticker tape parade for the women's World Cup champions on July 10 in New York City. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty

That doesn't mean they're right—if the concepts of right and wrong as we regularly employ them apply in this case. If it's really all about marketing, then they probably don't. It makes Rapinoe a sideshow, playing for pennies among the other geeks from the suckers willing to pitch them into the till. And that makes it hard for every American girl out there in the heartland who, like the commercial shows, is up at 4 a.m. kicking the soccer ball in the dark to become a winner.

Rapinoe's going to turn people off women's soccer as a professional sport worth their time—just when the remarkable accomplishments of America's team ought to be driving people to their games and generating positive interest in the sport.

Instead, we get what James Thurber imagined in his short story "The Greatest Man in the World." In it, he wrote about the ramifications had the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic not been an all-American stand-up guy like "Lucky Lindy" but instead, to put it mildly, a thoroughly unpleasant fellow.

If Megan Rapinoe is the new face of women's soccer, I'm sticking to baseball.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International and other publications. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.