U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe is a team player. She fights for her sport, defends her teammates, and even carries that mentality off the field and into the political arena — which means that anyone who isn’t on her ideological team isn’t welcome.
After the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup, Rapinoe said she would only meet with politicians who shared her worldview. “Yes to AOC, yes to Nancy Pelosi,” Rapinoe said. “Yes to the bipartisan Congress, yes to Chuck Schumer, yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real, substantive conversation, and that believes in the same things we believe in.”
Of course, President Trump doesn’t make the cut.
“I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked hard to build and the things that we fight for and the way that we live our life. I don’t think we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration,” Rapinoe told CNN when asked whether she’d accept Trump’s invitation to the White House.
Protesting political ideas is acceptable and even necessary, at times. Certainly, there are issues that demand a bold statement of opposition, even if that means refusing an invitation to the White House.
This isn’t unprecedented or even exclusive to one political party. Several members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins refused to meet with former President Barack Obama in 2013 because they disagreed with his administration. Larry Bird famously skipped the Boston Celtics’ visit to the White House to meet with Ronald Reagan after winning the 1984 title. And on and on.
But Rapinoe’s declaration of exclusivity suggests this is more than just a statement. It’s a deliberate attempt to shut herself off from different opinions and ideologies. This is futile and dangerous. It’s pointless because regardless of how hard we might try to wall ourselves off from ideas we disagree with, it’s impossible to turn around without being confronted by a different set of ideas that challenge our carefully placated worldview. In these polarized times, it’s easy to forget that countless opinions on a variety of minute subjects exist across the nation.
And this is a good thing. We should gladly listen to those we disagree with. Ideas exist to be challenged. Refusing to entertain opposing ideas runs the risk of removing the distinction between the humanity and politics of a person. It creates an indissoluble barrier that prevents you from looking at another human being and seeing anything but the things you dislike. This distinction is imperative if we are to live and work and support each other in a society created and defended by “we the people.”
You would think Rapinoe understands this based off of her speech on Wednesday, in which she declared that the only way forward is to “love more, hate less.”
“We’ve got to listen more and talk less,” she said. “We’ve go to know that this is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here. Every single person who’s not here, every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree.”
Every single person — unless, of course, that person is Trump. I get it. Rapinoe has her political positions, and she’s committed to them. But committed belief in a certain set of values is best demonstrated by an open willingness to challenge and defend those ideas. I hope Rapinoe’s tribalist declaration was a semantic blunder. Because if we’re only in this for our teams and our ideas, we’ll miss out on the best part of a free society grounded in open dialogue.
It might seem difficult to drop the political guard, but it’s not: I might disagree with Rapinoe’s political opinions, but I’ll gladly cheer for her on the soccer field any day.