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U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe: Trump backlash won’t destabilize team

United States'Megan Rapinoe gestures to supporters at the end of the Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Spain and US at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Monday, June 24, 2019. US beat Spain 2-1. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PARIS, France — Megan Rapinoe said United States president Donald Trump’s criticism of her on Twitter will not impact the team as it prepares for a World Cup quarterfinal against France.

Trump’s tweetstorm came after months-old comments Rapinoe made about not visiting the White House recirculated on social media.

“I’ll just address it head on and then we can to the soccer questions,” Rapinoe said during a news conference Thursday in Paris. “I stand by the comments that I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive — my mom will be very upset about that. 

“But, obviously, entering with a lot of passion considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform we have and using it for good, and for leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place. I don’t think I would want to go, and I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having that co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t fight for the same things that we fight for.”

Rapinoe said she did not want to answer additional questions about the situation, but did respond to reporters’ inquiries about how the attention might impact the team ahead of a big knockout quarterfinal match Friday at 3 p.m. ET against host France at Parc des Princes in Paris. 

“I’m not worried about destabilizing the dressing room. I think we have a very strong dressing room,” Rapinoe said. “I didn’t make the comments at a press conference here. They were made months ago. I think, if anything, it just kind of fires everybody up a little  more.”

U.S. coach Jill Ellis said the entire team supports Rapinoe and the players’ focus on the training ground “has been phenomenal.”

“They’re elite people who live on a stage and are always probably under scrutiny, but I think this team has a remarkable focus,” Ellis said. “I think we all support Megan. She knows that. We know we have each other’s backs in there. I think for our players, there’s only one purpose, there’s one mission that we’re here.”

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