Megan Rapinoe attacked the “deep level of misogyny and sexism” in the Spanish football federation after its president, Luis Rubiales, kissed forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips after her team’s victory in Sunday’s World Cup final.
“On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy,” Rapinoe said in an interview with the Atlantic published on Tuesday. “There was another picture that signals such a deep level of misogyny and sexism in that federation and in [Rubiales] at the final whistle, just grabbing his crotch. What kind of upside down world are we in?”
Rubiales has since apologised for the kiss but Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, called the incident “unacceptable” and said the apology did not go far enough.
Rapinoe’s final World Cup ended in disappointment after the USA were beaten by Sweden on penalties in the last 16. That led to celebration on social media by Donald Trump, with whom Rapinoe has clashed in the past. Rapinoe dismissed Trump’s comments in Tuesday’s interview.
“It’s a compilation of hit words and hot-button words that don’t actually make any sort of sense or square with reality at all,” she said. “I think, just in general, the way that our team was spoken about over the course of the tournament, it was fake. And it didn’t make sense to me: In 2019, we were ultra-confident, ultra-swaggy – and won everything. And even though we won, we did it in bad taste, according to our critics … it’s just so disingenuous. There’s no way for us to win, and there’s no way for us to lose.”
Rapinoe said that the reaction to the US women’s team World Cup defeat was symptomatic of a wider problem in America.
“One thing that America does really well is backlash. I think there’s a huge backlash against women happening right now,” she added. “I think we see that with the overturning of Roe v Wade. We’re seeing that with the trans argument in sports.”
She also denied the team, many of whom do not sing the anthem before games, were unpatriotic, a common criticism from the right.
“I’ll miss being able to represent our country,” she said. “I think, a lot of times, that gets lost, when people talk about me in particular: ‘Oh, you guys don’t sing the anthem, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You don’t love America.’ But we do love America. It’s just more in a James Baldwin kind of way, not in a bald-eagle-on-your-shoulder kind of way.”
Rapinoe, who is known for her prowess on set pieces, missed a penalty in the shootout with Sweden but told the Atlantic she would step up to the spot again if she had the chance.
The 38-year-old will retire from the US national team as a two-time World Cup winner and an Olympic champion. She said that in retirement she will miss the atmosphere at World Cups.
“The buzz around it – walking into these stadiums, the feeling that, on any given day, anything can happen,” she said. “There’s just something that brings out the best in players, in teams. And if you catch that little piece of fire, it’s just special.”