The United States women’s national soccer team is doing a terrible job representing our country overseas.

Speaking to reporters last week, forward Megan Rapinoe—who previously knelt for the national anthem—seized an opportunity to express her displeasure with President Trump, noting, “I’m not going to the f****** White House,” as would be customary following a World Cup victory. Joining her teammate in protest is co-captain Alex Morgan, a former UC Berkley standout who has also preemptively declined a potential White House visit and refused to sing the national anthem.

This is a disgrace. And the only people hurt by this protest are the individuals engaging in it.

With a semifinal game today against England, Rapinoe and Morgan have managed to alienate red-blooded Americans who would otherwise support them as though they were heading to war. The United States has produced some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen and the World Cup is an immensely patriotic time in which Americans of all races, religions, and political beliefs routinely set aside their differences and meld into one.

Despite our disagreements, the one thing that historically unites Americans together in support of a common cause is international athletic competition. When our athletes depart overseas to compete for American honor on the world stage, we send them off with parades and root for them as though they play for our individual favorite teams back home. We treat them like heroes because their success abroad reaffirms that which we understand over here: America is the greatest country on earth.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that this remarkably patriotic affection doesn’t extend to a group of wealthy, influential athletes too concerned with their petty contempt for President Trump to honor the stars and stripes symbolic of the nation built and defended by the very people responsible for their success. It is one matter for the Philadelphia Eagles or the Golden State Warriors to refuse a White House visit or kneel for the anthem. It’s entirely different for Team USA.

Further, it’s counterproductive for athletes seeking validation for their activism. As Alex Morgan explains, “We don’t have to be put in this little box. There’s the narrative that’s been said hundreds of times about any sort of athlete who’s spoken out politically. ‘Stick to sports.’ We’re much more than that, OK?”

Well, typically, people who have something to say politically would pounce at an opportunity to meet with the president. Morgan, who earns $450,000 per year, desires equal pay for female athletes despite the fact that she earns nine times more than her husband, a midfielder for the LA Galaxy. Rapinoe, a lesbian and staunch advocate for LGBT rights, seeks to promote social equality. Interestingly enough, however, the president of the United States isn’t worthy of the team’s platform, according to Rapinoe.

Not only are these women forwarding blatantly false notions about America as a fundamentally terrible place, they’re missing an opportunity to validate and further their political activism, while simultaneously dividing America and alienating folks from their cause.

This is that wonderful point in time during which Americans are supposed to become so patriotic that we reference America with feminine pronouns. Instead, we have a Team USA that refuses to sing its own national anthem; athletes so petty that they refuse to celebrate with the leader of their own country; and activists so cowardly that they refuse to bring their demands directly to the individual capable of dispatching them. They’ve managed to hijack a formerly unifying sporting event, inflame political discourse, and force Americans who love their troops, appreciate their flag, and savor their country to wonder whether or not Team USA is even worth cheering for.

Until American athletes learn to appreciate our nation, respect our flag, and utilize their platforms productively, we will continue to lose as a nation regardless of how many goals our women beat England by this afternoon.

(Photo: Jamie Smed/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Heroes Media Group