The media-hyped U.S. women’s soccer team made an embarrassingly early exit from the World Cup at some point over the weekend.
Very few people outside college towns and urban hipster cities watched the games because they were boring, and the quality of play was low. Usually televised in the middle of the night, viewership predictably plummeted.
While Donald Trump pushed back by taunting the team and Joe Biden, with an accurate, albeit self-serving statement, it was Democrats, this White House, and a certain former first lady that long ago played politics with soccer.
The left-leaning New Republic desperately wanted to push partisanship and obfuscate the matter this week by condemning any animosity toward players who disrespected the country abroad.

To any Americans bothered by such odious behavior — or who view the team’s loss as personal validation — Senior Editor Alex Shepard risibly argued:

“It’s figures like Donald Trump…who have injected politics into the sports discourse, drawing the women’s team into a conversation no one asked for and attacking them for their own benefit. The U.S. didn’t polarize anyone by speaking out—figures like Trump did by warping their work into culture-war bric-a-brac and stump-speech fodder.”

That is fact-free balderdash.
For nearly a decade, the U.S. women’s soccer team has happily served as spokespeople for campaigns to illustrate a fictional “pay gap” endured by women performing the same roles as men. As president, Barack Obama notoriously deployed the team’s members as props to popularize a claim so baseless that Obama’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics and many U.S. district courts disputed the pay gap’s very existence.
Like a trained leftist, Megan Rapinoe began partisan feuds with Republican lawmakers and used her sudden celebrity to push racial division and advance divisive causes. The repugnant Rapinoe, who finally retired a few days after her latest massive failure, is so overtly political that pollsters lauded her appeal in a hypothetical election against Trump. That same year, the Associated Press enthusiastically celebrated the team’s “off-the-field activist role” as champions for various “social-justice causes.

No overt politics there, Mr. Shepard?

Rapinoe and her obnoxious teammates engaged in political activism that angered at least half the country. Finding a women’s soccer fan in rural America (or outside the United States) is almost impossible. Republicans did not inject politics into the apolitical conduct of professional athletics; they’ve merely criticized those doing the injecting.

This is the “Republicans pounce” effect. It is a vapid style of journalism that seeks to redirect a reader’s attention away from an event that Democrats find discomfiting by solely highlighting the Republican reaction to the event. Then the naïve public believes the GOP’s response to controversy is more newsworthy than the controversy itself.

People can root for and watch whatever sports they choose. But if many right-leaning Americans are pleased the U.S. women’s team choked, that reaction is the culmination of years of efforts on the team’s part to cultivate this response. The divisive women’s soccer team made their sport political. If the disingenuous sports media, the failed team, and its dwindling supporters are irked by the prevailing sentiment among conservatives, they should stop bloviating and playing the victim. They should blame themselves.


Ari Kaufman is a correspondent for several U.S. newspapers and magazines from Minnesota and Ohio to Tennessee and Virginia. He taught school and served as a military historian before beginning his journalism career. He is the author of three books, a frequent guest on radio programs, and a regular contributor here at The Lid.