Former US president Donald Trump has panned his own country’s Olympic football team after its bronze medal win over Australia on Thursday.
The US Women’s National Team came into the Olympics as the reigning world champions and gold medal favourites, before suffering a surprise defeat to Canada in the semi-finals.
But the Americans at least ended on a positive note (unfortunately, from our perspective), beating Australia 4-3 in a pulsating match to claim third place.
“It feels like we really had to earn that thing. And we’re very proud of it,” the team’s captain, Becky Sauerbrunn, said of the bronze medal.
“Obviously we wanted to get a gold medal. Everyone wants to get a gold medal, Americans love golds. The fact is we potentially didn’t deserve to get a gold.”
Mr Trump offered a less charitable assessment of the result, releasing a statement blaming “wokeness” for the team’s failure to win gold.
“If our soccer team, headed by a radical group of leftist maniacs, wasn’t woke, they would have won the gold medal instead of the bronze,” the former president said.
“Woke means you lose, everything that is woke goes bad, and our soccer team certainly has.
“There were, however, a few patriots standing. Unfortunately, they need more than that respecting our country and national anthem. They should replace the wokesters with patriots and start winning again.
“The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about radical left politics and not doing her job!”
The “woman with the purple hair” is Megan Rapinoe, who actually scored two spectacular goals in the bronze medal match – one a sumptuous volley, the other a rare “Olimpico”, in which she scored directly from a corner kick.
One can only assume Mr Trump did not watch the game before pontificating on it.
Incidentally, Rapinoe won the Ballon d’Or for being the world’s best player in 2019, when she was just as politically active as she is now.
Mr Trump’s assertion that only “a few patriots” stood for the national anthem is a little baffling as well. Every US player has stood for the anthem at every match in Tokyo. The team announced it would stop kneeling all the way back in February.
Rapinoe started to kneel during the anthem in 2016 in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the practice to protest against racial injustice. When other NFL players followed suit, Mr Trump said they should be fired.
Some misinformation did spread online after the Americans’ first match in Tokyo, against Sweden, with some on social media claiming players knelt during the anthem.
That was not the case. Both teams and the referee knelt for 10 seconds just before kick-off in a collective protest against discrimination and racial inequality.
Perhaps that is what Mr Trump was thinking of.
The Republican politician has carried something of a grudge against the US women’s team for years now. To be fair, the players don’t like him much either.
The team declined an invitation to meet him at the White House after winning the 2019 World Cup. Rapinoe famously said, and I quote: “I’m not going to the f***ing White House.”
Multiple players have taken stands on social issues in recent years, but Rapinoe is the most politically active, and therefore the one who cops the most criticism.
In 2016, after kneeling in solidarity with Kaepernick, she explained her stance.
“I think it’s actually pretty disgusting, the way he was treated,” Rapinoe said.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all your liberties. It was something small that I could do, and something that I plan to keep doing in the future, and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation.”
She publicly endorsed Elizabeth Warren during the Democratic presidential primaries in 2019 and 2020, and subsequently appeared at the Democratic National Convention to support Joe Biden, who went on to beat Mr Trump in the general election.
Mr Trump has consistently criticised athletes for wading into politics, having a go at the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA. He recently slammed the Cleveland Indians, a baseball franchise, for changing its name to the Cleveland Guardians.
The move to a less racially insensitive name came a year after the Washington Redskins became the Washington Football Team (Mr Trump criticised that decision too).
“The new name will be the Cleveland Guardians, which is terrible,” the former president told his supporters at a rally in late July.
“If I were an Indian I’d sue. Sue them. I mean, what could be better? Especially if you have a good team. The Cleveland Indians, it’s one of the greatest names. One of the most incredible logos. People love it.
“They want to take away our history, our heritage, our culture, and everything that holds us together.”
In the same speech, he also mentioned the Olympic football team’s defeat to Sweden in its first game, which ended a 44-match unbeaten streak. Mr Trump said Americans were “happy” about the loss.
The crowd responded by cheering.
Mr Trump has often boasted of his own sporting prowess. He claims to have won 18 golf club championships, and has said he could have been a professional baseball player.
Naturally, both claims have been thoroughly examined.
Sportswriter Rick Reilly did a deep dive into the golf championships Mr Trump says he won. Reilly found he was lying about 16 of them, and couldn’t find any evidence to either back up or contradict him on the other two.
We know for a fact that Mr Trump didn’t even compete in one of the tournaments he supposedly won, because he was almost a hundred miles away at the time.
Reilly also discovered that Mr Trump is a serial cheater at golf, which intrigued him so much that he wrote a book about it. It’s worth a read if you want some hilarious anecdotes.
What about baseball? Leander Schaerlaeckens, another sportswriter, looked into Mr Trump’s performance in the sport, and concluded he was “a solid defensive first baseman but a bad hitter”, with a batting average of .138 in school.
That is not a good average.
“You don’t hit .138 for some podunk, cold weather high school playing the worst competition you could possibly imagine. You wouldn’t even get recruited for Division I baseball programs, let alone by pro teams. That’s totally unthinkable,” baseball writer Keith Law told Schaerlaeckens after looking at Mr Trump’s record.
“It’s absolutely laughable. He hits .138. He couldn’t f***ing hit, that’s pretty clear.”
Perhaps he was too woke.