In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. Women’s National Team lost in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The Round of 16 exit felt abrupt since the USWNT won the last two Women’s World Cups in 2015. So they set a very high standard for themselves in the process of all that winning. Issues, which weren’t always brought up to the surface, probably played a significant role in this happening. But some, like Fox’s Alexi Lalas, instead have opted for a different angle. Let’s say that didn’t please superstar Megan Rapinoe.
Lalas, a former U.S. Men’s National Team star, spoke of the USWNT’s likability, or a lack thereof in their case. He also called them “polarizing” on his X account., among other things:
“Don’t kill the messenger. This #USWNT is polarizing. Politics, causes, stances, & behavior have made this team unlikeable to a portion of America. This team has built its brand and has derived its power from being the best/winning. If that goes away they risk becoming irrelevant.”
The USWNT, outspoken for their human rights stances, often draws the ire of Conservative types around the country. You don’t have to look too far down the pipe to find them. Criticism came for the USWNT in many forms from many different people, including the former President of the United States. Lalas might be right that they’re polarizing, and they often stir up discussion. But there’s probably more to that,
Rapinoe, among the most candid athletes in America, took a strong stance and struck back at Lalas for his comments. The Atlantic interviewed Rapinoe, who called Lalas’ comments “really disappointing.” She accused right-wingers of waiting in the weeds for the right moment to skewer the USWNT; to that end, it has been open season since they lost. Rapinoe also accused right-wingers of not wanting women to succeed while fighting for things to be better.
But Rapinoe noted Beyonce, Coco Gauff, and Taylor Swift as three examples of women fighting for things and achieving greatness. Perhaps the most scathing comments Rapinoe made in Lalas’ direction were about who else parrots these talking points. She noted that Fox News commentators often used these talking points and suggested that Lalas do some deep thinking about who’s co-signing his statements.
To that end, Lalas’ comments have always come off as cheap and convenient. The USWNT won the World Cup during Donald Trump’s presidency, and there was plenty of quarreling between Rapinoe and Trump then. It’s easy to see the high-profile members of the USWNT taking a stand against human rights issues and, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, bash the team for “being distracted” or for championing causes instead of winning. As if the two have ever been mutually exclusive.
It’s easy to package these talking points on television and X, a site infested with arguments, reactions, droning discussions, and exhausting discourse. Carli Lloyd’s critiques of the USWNT drew criticism, but Lloyd’s comments were far more interesting than Lalas’ lazy attempts at political intersect. And it’s probably much more likely that the USWNT, especially someone like Rapinoe, would respect Lloyd and what she says since she’s been to the top of the mountain.