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Megan Rapinoe, when confronted with criticism, says women are victims of a ‘huge backlash’

Retired soccer star Megan Rapinoe claimed Tuesday that women in the United States are experiencing a “huge backlash.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Women’s National Team experienced its earliest-ever World Cup elimination after losing in a shootout to Sweden. Following the shocking loss, for which Rapinoe was partially responsible, Rapinoe said her proudest accomplishment on the team was her social activism.

The comment drew criticism from prominent soccer stars like Carli Lloyd, one of Rapinoe’s former teammates. Lloyd criticized the USWNT for celebrating after a 0-0 World Cup draw against Portugal. Then, after Team USA was eliminated from the World Cup altogether, former U.S. Men’s National Team star Alexi Lalas called the women’s team “unlikeable.”

For some, stinging criticism from peers is a cause for reflection. But Rapinoe associated the criticism with right-wing politics.

“[I]t was really disappointing — and the speed with which those comments got into the atmosphere. Everybody on the right — and everybody who was using hateful language and these tropes — it’s like they have just been waiting … for this team to stumble. But when we are perfect, then we are accused of thinking that we’re perfect,” she said in an interview with the Atlantic.

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“Really, what’s happening is that the right wing wants this to be true: they want women to believe that you can’t fight for things and be excellent; you can’t ask for what you deserve and be successful,” she claimed.

The reaction against the USWNT, according to Rapinoe, is yet more evidence that women in America are the victims of widespread “backlash.”

“One thing that America does really well is backlash. I think there’s a huge backlash against women happening right now,” she claimed. “I think we see that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We’re seeing that with the trans argument in sports.”

Is criticism of Rapinoe and the USWNT, generally, evidence that women are facing widespread backlash simply for being women?

Probably not. What’s more likely, as Lalas highlighted, is that the USWNT is “polarizing” because the team’s repeated forays into politics and activism have made them “unlikeable to a portion of America.”

Whether it’s fair for athletes or not, most Americans turn to sports for a reprieve from politics — not to have athletes shove social activism down their throats.

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