From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Some conservatives cheer U.S. women’s World Cup loss
Date August 7, 2023 11:30 AM
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Rather than criticize the team's poor on-field performance, commentators choose to go after some of the players’ off-field stances Email not displaying correctly?
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Some conservative media rejoice U.S. women’s loss in World Cup
United States' Megan Rapinoe reacts after missing a penalty kick during the Women's World Cup on Sunday. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

The United States women’s soccer team was shockingly (although, not really if you’ve been paying attention) eliminated from the women’s World Cup on Sunday. They lost on penalty kicks to Sweden in the round of 16. It’s the earliest the four-time champs have ever been eliminated. But they had struggled throughout the tournament, and getting knocked out Sunday should have come as no surprise.

It was also not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless, to see some of the reaction to the U.S. loss. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing the team for not playing well. This isn't a youth sport where we applaud effort and hand out snow cones after the game. The women are fair game to be criticized for on-field play. But some conservative commentators seemed to take joy in the U.S.’s elimination because of off-the-field topics.

Fox News’ Will Cain tweeted ([link removed]) , “I always pull for Team USA. All sports. And I really don’t take joy in the earliest elimination ever for the USWNT. But this team came to be defined by arrogant celebrity activists who went out of their way to exhibit shame in the US, begin the process of destroying their own sport (advocating for men to play women’s sports) and curry victimization with false narratives about equal pay. Nobody made it harder to root for them than the USWNT. There are women on this team who have poured their heart and soul and sweat into this team for the US. Who are proud Americans focused on soccer. I hope those players define the future of the USWNT.”

He also took aim at U.S. star Megan Rapinoe, who missed on her penalty kick chance Sunday. Cain tweeted the video ([link removed]) of Rapino missing and wrote, “Won an ESPY. Lost the World Cup.”

Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz wrote ([link removed]) , “Of course, Cain is far from the only person to express sentiments along those lines, or the only media personality. But his commentary stands out for him being at least a former sports analyst who’s now bashing athletes for off-the-field stances and claiming those stances are what’s behind poor on-field results. (And for him working at the same company as the U.S. broadcaster of the World Cup, albeit in a rather different division.)”

Clay Travis, the conservative radio host and podcaster, also mentioned politics in a tweet ([link removed]) , saying the women have gone from a team “the entire country loved” in 2015 to a “far left wing politics-laden team that barely made the top 16 eight years later.” He added they were “an unmitigated disaster.”

It seems Cain and Travis, and hundreds of their followers who commented on those tweets, have particular issues with Rapinoe. (Search Rapinoe’s name on Twitter if you really want to see what many so-called “patriots” think of her.)

One conservative commentator tweeted ([link removed]) , “I’m glad they lost,” adding they were “America-hating, entitled, ungrateful group.” Another said ([link removed]) , “I would root for Al Qaeda before I’d root for this American Women's Soccer Team. … They are the sports version of Antifa.” Podcaster Jason Whitlock, who used to be a decent sportswriter, tweeted during the match ([link removed]) , “We got a chance. PKs. Let’s go Sweden!”

And why? Because Rapinoe and others have spoken up on diversity, equity and inclusion issues and, I guess, that doesn’t line up with their brand of politics. Again, it was disappointing, although not at all surprising, to see so many comments under the Cain and Travis tweets from so-called Americans who openly rejoiced that a team representing America had been eliminated. All because players used their First Amendment rights to speak up about issues they care about.

Longtime ESPN journalist Pablo Torre put it best, tweeting ([link removed]) : “Nothing says AMERICA FIRST more than rooting against *checks notes* the literal U.S national team because they *checks notes* peacefully exercised freedom of speech.”

Sportswriter Mike Freeman, who is now the sports race and inequality editor at USA Today, tweeted ([link removed]) , “I’m totally shocked the right wing is making the US women soccer team’s loss about wokeness. Shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted, if you will.”

The U.S. women absolutely deserve to be questioned about their on-field performance. They had an awful tournament and deserve to be called out for that. But to take joy at their failure (after so much past success) just because they exercised their rights as Americans is hypocritical and, I would argue, un-American.

Instead of listening too much to the knuckleheads, however, check out these more reasonable and intelligent reactions to the U.S. women’s performance:
* The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner with “The new face of U.S. women’s soccer is stunned disbelief.” ([link removed])
* The New York Times’ Jeré Longman with “For Megan Rapinoe, an Ending Not Even She Could Have Imagined.” ([link removed])
* The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Bachman with “The Two-Year Slide That Ended the U.S. Women’s Soccer Dynasty.” ([link removed])
* The Ringer’s Brian Phillips with “The USWNT Faced a New Kind of Uncertainty in the 2023 World Cup and Lost.” ([link removed])
* The Associated Press’ Anne M. Peterson with “Megan Rapinoe leaves her final Women’s World Cup with pride after a long career.” ([link removed])

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** A fair trial?

Former President Donald Trump, indicted last week on charges he tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election, is complaining that he cannot get a fair trial in Washington, D.C.

Republican candidate for president and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was asked about that on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“Unlike anybody else in this race,” Christie told host Dana Bash, “I actually did this for seven years as the U.S. attorney in the fifth largest office in the country, in New Jersey, which is a very blue state. And I could tell you, I watched as jurors put aside any of their partisanship or politics and listened to the evidence and returned in my state fair and just verdicts, 130 of them in political corruption cases that we did without a defeat and never was one of them overturned on appeal during my seven years.”

Bash then followed up: “So yes?”

Christie said, “And so my view is, yes, I believe jurors can be fair. I believe in the American people. And I believe in the fact that jurors will listen fairly and impartially.”

That wasn’t even close to Christie’s harshest criticism. He said on “CBS Sunday Morning:” ([link removed]) “He’s a completely self-centered, self-possessed, self-consumed, angry old man. And he doesn’t care about anybody else other than him.”

** Trump’s main argument
An artist sketch depicts former President Donald Trump, center, during his appearance at the Federal Courthouse in Washington last week. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

John Lauro, who is defending Trump in these latest charges about the 2020 election, insists Trump is protected by the First Amendment.

Appearing on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Lauro told moderator Chuck Todd that Trump’s actions were “aspirational,” but not criminal.

He told Todd, “President Trump believed in his heart of hearts that he had won that election. And as any American citizen, he had a right to speak out under the First Amendment.”

Lauro appeared on several of the Sunday shows. He told “State of the Union,” “When it comes to political speech, you can not only advocate for a position, but you can take action, you can petition, you can ask even your vice president to pause the vote. Asking is aspirational. Asking is not action. It’s core free speech.”

Based on the news of the past several days, it appears that a potential Trump trial is going to come down to a star witness: former Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence told Bash that he had no plans to testify, but would abide by a subpoena. Pence told CBS’s “Face of the Nation” that he did not know what would happen in a trial, adding, “I don’t know whether the government has the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support this case.”

However, Pence has been quite clear in recent days, saying in interviews that Trump didn’t just ask him to “pause” the certification of Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021. He told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum, “The president specifically asked me — and his gaggle of crackpot lawyers asked me — to literally reject votes, which would have resulted in the issue being turned over to the House of Representatives. And, literally, chaos would have ensued.”

But on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” Lauro said he would welcome cross-examining Pence in a trial, adding, “The vice president will be our best witness.”

** “He murdered the sports desk”

The New York Post’s Alexandra Steigrad reported ([link removed]) that New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger met with members of the outlet’s sports department late last week. The Times announced last month that it will disband the department and that the sports staff will be dispersed to other sections of the Times. The paper’s sports coverage will be handled by The Athletic, the sports website the Times purchased in January of 2022 for $550 million.

Those in the sports department are not only upset about being replaced by The Athletic, but how they were kept in the dark about the changes until the announcement was made last month. The Times union has filed a grievance, saying replacing this is a form of union-busting. Most of the Times’ sports department is union, while The Athletic is nonunion.

One source told Steigrad that staffers are unhappy with how they have been “haphazardly” assigned to other departments, particularly upset are those who have built distinguished careers as sportswriters.

Steigrad wrote, “‘It was a hard message to hear,’ the source added, explaining that when staffers pressed the exec to promise that the paper wouldn’t repeat this strategy of acquiring other sites and replacing its journalists, he declined and instead emphasized to look at his ‘track record.’”

But a Times employee told the Post, “The most recent thing on his track record is he murdered the sports desk.”

** Media tidbits
* The New York Times’ Sapna Maheshwari with “The Women’s Magazines of 2023 Are in a Facebook Group and Your Inbox.” ([link removed])
* The NBA’s Orlando Magic made a $50,000 donation to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ super PAC. Magic players put out a statement saying they were not OK with that. Showtime host Rachel Nichols then talked about it all on CNN. Awful Announcing’s Bucholtz has the details ([link removed]) , including Nichols’ strong commentary.
* NBC News’ Dasha Burns has an interview with DeSantis and his wife, Casey, that will air on this morning’s “Today” show and tonight’s “NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt. Parts of the interview also will air throughout the day on MSNBC and NBC News NOW.

** Hot type

The Sacramento Bee’s Mathew Miranda with “One migrant’s journey to Sacramento: 108 days, 3 deportations and the search for a new life.” ([link removed])

The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison and Greg Jaffe with “In an Atlanta suburb, American realities collide over Trump’s indictment.” ([link removed])

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
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