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The United States Women’s National Team was knocked out of the 2023 World Cup in the Round of 16 earlier this month. Their loss was surprising, but not necessarily shocking. What was shocking, however, was the almost orgiastic response to the loss from former President Donald Trump and right-wingers around the US, who gleefully celebrated the US team’s defeat and Megan Rapinoe’s missed kick as a victory in the reactionary war against so-called “wokeness.” As Edge of Sports host Dave Zirin argues in this “Choice Words” segment, the same people who vilify and attack trans athletes, and claim they’re doing so to defend the sanctity of women’s sports, are showing how much they also hate women’s sports and women “who dare not ‘know their place.’”

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Studio Production: David Hebden, Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Taylor Hebden
Audio Post-Production: David Hebden
Opening Sequence: Cameron Granadino
Music by: Eze Jackson, Carlos Guillen


Dave Zirin:  Welcome to a sneak preview of Edge of Sports season two, only on The Real News Network. I’m Dave Zirin. Season two begins August 30 at 7:00PM, that’s a Wednesday. I cannot wait to show you what we’ve got cooking. But I could not wait until August 30 to tell you some thoughts that I have about the defeat of the US Women’s National team at the World Cup and why exactly the right wing is celebrating it so vociferously.

And now some choice words. Okay, look, in left politics, there is a philosophy called revolutionary defeatism. It means calling for your own country to lose when engaging in an imperialist war. Such a call never popular is essential for the task of building internationalism and fighting the thirst for conquest. It’s a noble call whose root lies in the desire to end human suffering. Well, in the USA right now, we are seeing something that is best described as reactionary defeatism.

This is the call for the US to lose in its various rivalries with other countries but not out of some thirst to end nationalism or war, not at all. Instead, this twisted and bizarrely fantastical view is that the US has given too many rights to too many people and we are now as a result, losers. For them, this country, like Germany in the 1920s before the rise of the Nazis, represents a hedonistic hellscape and any humiliation on the world stage is not only welcome, it is to be cheered.

Reactionary defeatism was on full display when the US Women’s National team was bounced from the 2023 World Cup. Their loss was surprising but not necessarily shocking. While the US was going for its unprecedented third straight World Cup, many other countries have made giant strides in their development of women’s soccer; reaching and training players beyond the middle-class pipeline that dominates in the US.

Also, our team was an uneasy mix of experience and youth, and their coach, Vlatko Andonovski engaged in substitution patterns best described as bewildering. So they lost; not expected but it happens. But in the aftermath, what has both surprised and shocked many, although this has been brewing for some time, is the utter glee with which this country’s reactionary right-wing has responded. They have acted like the ouster of the US women was greater than if the Super Bowl was held on Christmas Day.

Many commentators on the mainstream sports channels have actually struggled to explain why a section of this country led by a vocally joyous Donald Trump, cheered their defeat. Many of the same patriotic souls who wanted Colin Kaepernick and USWNT icon Megan Rapinoe destroyed for kneeling during the anthem in 2016, loved seeing the red, white, and blue go down.

Look, there is much to unpack here in this backward exercise of reactionary defeatism, beyond the obvious that politics clearly no longer stop at the water’s edge. The anger we are told by Fox News commentators and the centrist press is because the team is polarizing as a result of being “too woke.” Although no one seems able to say exactly what that means. Beneath the buzzwords, the hatred comes down to two things, both equally stupid.

The first is that they can’t stand Rapinoe and assume that the team is made up of a bunch of Rapinoe carbon copies, an absurd charge if you know anything about the actual human beings that played on this team. They also can’t stand, although they won’t say it explicitly, choosing in a cowardly fashion to hide behind the word “woke” that this team organized and won equal pay. Equal pay they more than deserved by any metric.

The US Women’s National Team is the most successful, popular soccer squad this country has ever produced, and at minimum, they deserved parody in their compensation. Their great sin when you dig in is that these are women who refuse to be controlled and sit in the corner. Because of that, Donald Trump, an abuser, and assaulter of women, finds them intolerable. His followers are along for the ride because it valorizes their misogyny. Yet their joy at seeing the women fail also destroys a central right-wing election talking point. The GOP is openly running against transgender existence by saying that they will “protect women’s sports from biological males.”

But here they are mocking women athletes and cheering for their loss. They have revealed themselves. They don’t want to protect women’s sports, they hate women’s sports. Because if we want to get real, they hate women. Or at the very least, women who dare not know their place. The US Women’s National team and especially the legendary Rapinoe do not need the support of parasitic hypocrites who only care about women’s sports if it advances their cause to eradicate trans kids. But this is what reactionary defeatism is all about. They want the US team to lose because they want to divide and demoralize people as part of an effort to radically remake this country. They want the US to lose because they want everything Megan Rapinoe, female, queer, anti-racist, pro-choice, outspoken, everything that Megan Rapinoe represents, they want it to wither away. But they don’t realize Megan has an army and it’s an army that win or lose will not be marching backwards.

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Dave Zirin is the sports editor of the Nation Magazine. He is the author of 11 books on the politics of sports, including most recently, The Kaepernick Effect Taking A Knee, Saving the World. He’s appeared on ESPN, NBC News, CNN, Democracy Now, and numerous other outlets. Follow him at @EdgeofSports.