(Note strong language in paragraph three and six that some readers may find offensive)
PARIS (Reuters) - United States President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to criticize U.S women’s soccer team co-captain Megan Rapinoe for saying she would not visit the White House if the team won the World Cup.
Defending champions the United States face hosts France in the quarter-finals on Friday.
“Psssh, I’m not going to the fucking White House,” Rapinoe said in response to a question by a reporter from soccer magazine Eight by Eight when asked if she was excited about a potential White House invite.
In a video of the exchange that has since been posted on social media, Rapinoe, 33, adds, “No. I’m not going to the White House. We’re not going to be invited. I doubt it.”
Trump responded in a series of tweets later on Wednesday.
“Women’s soccer player, @mPinoe, just stated that she is ‘not going to the F...ing White House if we win’,” he said.
“I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job! We haven’t yet invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose.
“Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!”
Rapinoe was one of the first American athletes to join former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.
Rapinoe no longer kneels after the United States Soccer Federation changed its regulations to state that players must stand during the anthem, but she does not sing or cover her heart with her hand.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports in May, she said: “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart... I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”
Rapinoe received support from team mate Ali Krieger, who posted on twitter: “In regards to the “President’s” tweet today, I know women who you cannot control or grope anger you, but I stand by @mPinoe & will sit this one out as well. I don’t support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable.”
Former U.S. international Abby Wambach, the country’s record goalscorer added: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Thank you for your leadership @mPinoe. Love & Solidarity.”
Trump canceled a White House invitation to Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles last year in the wake of the Kaepernick protests.
The president said at the time that he had withdrawn his invitation to the Eagles after the team disagreed with his insistence on players being made to stand for the national anthem.
He also decided not to extend a White House invitation to either of last year’s NBA finalists, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, after the Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Warriors’ Stephen Curry said they would skip the visit.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru and Simon Evans in Paris, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis