From hosting the World Cup to gender pay equality, Goal looks at what the rival American politicians think about the sport
The United States presidential election 2020 is headlined by the face-off between the two-party candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Soccer, naturally, is very far down on the agenda, but both Trump and Biden have weighed in with opinions on some notable issues within the sport over the past few years.
While it may not be a deal-breaker for voters by any stretch of the imagination, those who are invested in the game in some capacity might well be curious how their preference stands when it comes to soccer.
So, with that in mind, Goal has taken a look at some of the issues on the record.
Where does Donald Trump stand on soccer issues?
Trump’s relationship with soccer in the United States is much like a lot of his other relationships: complicated.
While he is only too happy to be associated with the fact that the World Cup will be held in U.S. (along with Canada and Mexico) in 2026, he is also capable of telling the world he won’t watch the national teams if they contradict him.
World Cup 2026
“Thank you for all of the compliments on getting the World Cup to come to the USA, Mexico and Canada,” Trump tweeted when FIFA confirmed that the North American trio had beaten Morocco in the bid.
“I worked hard on this, along with a great team of talented people. We never fail, and it will be a great World Cup! A special thanks to Bob Kraft for excellent advice.”
Trump did lend a hand to the push for the World Cup to be hosted in North America, with the New York Times reporting that he sent three letters to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Indeed, he also met with Infantino on a number of occasions to discuss the hosting of the competition as well as issues within the game.
“You are part of the FIFA team now,” beamed Infantino as he presented Trump with a jersey (and, for some reason, referee cards) on a visit to the White House in 2018.
Thank you for all of the compliments on getting the World Cup to come to the U.S.A., Mexico and Canada. I worked hard on this, along with a Great Team of talented people. We never fail, and it will be a great World Cup! A special thanks to Bob Kraft for excellent advice.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2018
Trump’s interest in soccer is genuine and part of that is because his son Barron is an avid player, having been involved with D.C. United and Arlington Soccer Association youth teams.
“My son heard [Infantino] was going to be here and he said, ‘Dad I’d like to meet him’,” Trump told reporters in 2018. “My son Barron loves soccer and soccer has to be one of the fastest growing sports in the world.”
Megan Rapinoe, Black Lives Matter & ‘taking a knee’
As much as he heralded the idea of ‘Team America’ in the World Cup conversation, Trump was quick to turn his back on the national team in 2020. In June of that year, he took aim at U.S. Soccer (along with the NFL) following their decision not to force players to stand for the American national anthem before games.
“I won’t be watching much anymore!” Trump blasted on Twitter in response. “And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!”
The issue of forcing sportspeople to stand during the playing of the national anthem arose after Colin Kaepernick and others began to kneel in protest against police brutality and racism in 2016.
Trump immediately branded the kneeling protests “disrespectful” to the United States and since then he has consistently criticised athletes who choose to take a knee during the anthem.
It’s the battle that’s dominating the Women’s World Cup… 💥
— Goal (@goal) June 27, 2019
After USWNT star Megan Rapinoe knelt in solidarity with Kaepernick’s protest in a number of international and NWSL games, U.S. Soccer adopted a stance on the matter in 2017, when they made it official national team policy to “stand respectfully” during the playing of national anthems.
However, their 2020 decision overturned that stance and the organisation acknowledged that it was “wrong” to make it compulsory to stand during the anthem.
“We have not done enough to listen – especially to our players – to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country,” a U.S. Soccer statement said.
“We apologise to our players – especially our Black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism.”
Rapinoe, interestingly, has been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics and her numerous broadsides have even prompted the president to respond directly on Twitter.
Trump discussed the women’s game in a 2019 meeting with Gianni Infantino and revealed that they discussed how to make it “even better and more equitable”.
A few months prior to that meeting he had suggested that the issue of pay disparity boiled down to economics, though stressed that he had not yet made his mind up on the matter.
Trump has weighed in on football’s gender pay gap:
🗣 “I know that when you have the great stars like Ronaldo and some of these stars that get paid a lot of money, but they draw hundreds of thousands of people.” pic.twitter.com/1qtD9DiiHM
— Goal (@goal) June 25, 2019
“I think a lot of it also has to do with the economics,” Trump told The Hill. “I mean who draws more? Where is the money coming in?
“I know that when you have the great stars like [Portugal’s Cristiano] Ronaldo and some of these stars… that get paid a lot of money, but they draw hundreds of thousands of people.
“But I haven’t taken a position on that at all. I’d have to look at it.”
Where does Joe Biden stand on soccer issues?
Joe Biden has always taken an interest in the exploits of the United States national teams and is never shy about voicing his support for them, particularly during tournaments.
While he cannot claim the same sort of credit that Trump has with respect to the World Cup 2026 bid, he and his wife have been part of delegations at both the men’s and women’s World Cups.
In recent years, when it comes to soccer, Biden has been most vocal on the issue of equal pay for the USWNT, strongly backing their fight against the national association.
“USWNT, congratulations on the big win and thank you for the jersey!” he wrote in a tweet after the U.S women won the 2019 World Cup.
“Your talent, heart and advocacy for equal pay represents the best of America and serves as an inspiration for all.”
.@USWNT, congratulations on the big win and thank you for the jersey! Your talent, heart, and advocacy for equal pay represents the best of America and serves as an inspiration for all. #USWNTParade pic.twitter.com/0cDZiV8xz0
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 10, 2019
Indeed, he has also made some sterner statements on the matter, particularly after the women’s team lost their lawsuit in the courts in May 2020.
Reacting to the news, Biden urged the USWNT not to surrender their pursuit before issuing a serious warning to U.S. Soccer.
“To USWNT: don’t give up this fight,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is not over yet.
“To U.S. Soccer: equal pay, now. Or else when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding.”
To @USWNT: don’t give up this fight. This is not over yet.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 2, 2020
In contrast to Trump, who had not made his mind up on the matter in early 2019, the fact that Biden felt strongly enough about it to issue such an ultimatum underlines how clear his stance is. In fact, he can actually point to a record of working for equal pay in all sectors which stretches back to his time in the Obama administration.
Back in April 2020, Megan Rapinoe had Biden and his wife Jill on her podcast to discuss political matters including equal pay and, while she initially endorsed Elizabeth Warren as the Democratic candidate, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that she is now ‘Team Biden’.
Black Lives Matter & ‘taking a knee’
Biden has not been critical of athletes who have chosen to kneel in protest against racial injustice and he has been supportive of the Black Lives Matter concept.
In the lead up to the election, the former vice-president issued an address in which he said: “Black lives matter. Period. I’m not afraid to say it. Inequities have to be met head on.
Black lives matter. No president should be afraid to say it. pic.twitter.com/636AQZ04lW
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 27, 2020
“African Americans need a fair shake when it comes to economic opportunity, healthcare, criminal justice, education and housing.”
In 2020, a number of photos circulated online giving the impression that Biden had been kneeling in solidarity with the Kaepernick protest, but it was quickly shown that he was simply kneeling to talk to a child rather than making a statement.
The 2020 U.S. presidential election takes place on Tuesday November 3.