- - Thursday, August 8, 2019

As a longtime sports fan and former athlete, I was disappointed to read your July 14 editorial (“How not to win friends,” Web). You assert that the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s vocal political protests are unpatriotic and damaging to the sport’s reputation. In reality, the willingness of the U.S. women’s national team to stand up for their political beliefs is embedded in American cultural history.

Was the United States not formed by concerned citizens rebelling against the British government? Was Muhammad Ali a lesser athlete because of his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War? Freedom of speech, which includes the right to protest, is so embedded in American consciousness that it is the very first entry in the Bill of Rights.

Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe’s refusal to visit the White House is not merely a political protest, it is a protest against a president who admitted to sexually assaulting women and a vice-president who openly discriminates against people in the LGBTQ+ community. The U.S. women’s national soccer team’s vocal fight for the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people is patriotic for the millions of Americans who are members of and support those communities.

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Rather than damaging soccer’s reputation, the U.S. women’s national team has rekindled popular interest in a sport that was losing interest in the United States. The World Cup final averaged over 14 million American viewers in an era of fading live-TV viewership, and the entire tournament saw an increase in viewership over the 2015 World Cup, which aired more of its games during prime time.

By bringing the political sphere into the personal, Rapinoe and her team are making soccer relevant again.



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