“I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president.”
In February 2018, when U.S. athletes take on the snow and ice in South Korea at the Winter Olympics, they’ll be doing so in a much colder political climate than they have in years. A poll conducted by Pew Research in June 2017 found the world has a much lower opinion of President Donald Trump than his predecessor, Barack Obama.
U.S. Olympic gold-medalist Lindsey Vonn addressed the effect that Trump has had on the world’s perception of the U.S. in an interview with CNN on Dec. 7, 2017. “I take the Olympics very seriously and what they mean and what they represent, what walking under our flag means in the opening ceremony,” she said. “I want to represent our country well. I don’t think that there are a lot of people currently in our government that do that.”
Photo by Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr.
The skier then doubled down on her comment, calling out Trump personally. “Well, I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” Vonn told CNN’s “Alpine Edge.” Vonn also joined the ranks of other American athletes who’ve said they would decline a trip to the Trump White House. “I have to win to be invited,” she said, before correcting herself. “No, actually I think every U.S. team member is invited, so no, I won’t go.”
After Vonn’s candid interview, she received a lot of positive responses on social media but also her share of scorn. Trump supporters were quick to call her recent back injury a “punishment from god,” and some wished she’d “break her neck” as well.
Does Lindsey Vonn really think Americans give a crap who she thinks she's representing? Break a leg Lindsay. No no, I mean "break a leg"— DeploraBill (@BillDeplora) December 12, 2017\n
Trump takes down Lindsey Vonn pic.twitter.com/a0PLq8D3Hy— West (Outlaw) Hunter (@1HeroMe) December 10, 2017\n
Lindsey Vonn two days ago:”I won’t represent our president at the Winter Olympics”— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 9, 2017\n
Lindsey Vonn today: *Injures back while skiing*
That’s what we call the “Trump effect”
Vonn decided to clear up her position with a post on Instagram. “My recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now,” Vonn wrote, calling the comments “hurtful.”
But she wouldn’t back down from her belief that Trump has hurt America’s reputation around the globe:
“I want our country to continue to be a symbol of hope, compassion, inclusion and world unity. My travels around the world have recently made clear that this is no longer how people view the United States. You cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV in Europe without noticing how people are questioning our direction …”
Vonn finished her post with an appeal to the country’s better angels and a nod to conservative icon Ronald Reagan.
“I am going to take the next two months to focus on what I can do and right now that is competing for my country. In doing that, I will be hoping that we Americans can still be that ‘shining city on a hill.’”
As I head to France for the next races, I would like to share with you my reflections from the past few days. I've received a tremendous amount of feedback, both positive and negative, about my recent CNN interview. The point that I was trying to articulate is that all Olympic athletes represent their nation as a whole, and are not representatives of their government or any specific political figure or party. None of us work tirelessly for years on end to compete in the Olympics on behalf of Democrats or Republicans. The Olympics are a non-political event, a chance for everyone to put aside their differences and be on the same "team.". That does not mean that Olympic athletes don't have political opinions. As an American, I am extremely proud that our great nation was founded on principals and ideals where citizens can express our opinions openly. It is a privilege that some others around the world don't have. I am proud to be an American, and I want our country to continue to be a symbol of hope, compassion, inclusion and world unity. My travels around the world have recently made clear that this is no longer how people view the United States. You cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV in Europe without noticing how people are questioning our direction. It seems to me that we must lead with understanding and strive for unity in our relationships throughout the world. As for myself, my recent comments opened up my eyes as to how divided we are right now. It is hurtful to read comments where people are hoping I break my neck or that God is punishing me for being "anti-Trump." We need to find a way to put aside our differences and find common ground in communicating. Is it wrong to hope for a better world? All of this is much bigger than skiing and the Olympics. I am going to take the next two months to focus on what I can do and right now that is competing for my country. In doing that, I will be hoping that we Americans can still be that "shining city on a hill."