The silence of male athletes is, once again, deafening. And it does not go unnoticed.
They will rave about the strength and beauty of their wives and praise the sacrifices of their mothers. They will show off their adorable daughters and proudly claim the title of “Girl Dad.”
But when women’s rights are being stripped away, leaving us as less than full citizens? When we are being assaulted by a system designed to demean and do us harm? They say little, if anything, their lack of action betraying all of their words.
Their silence, and that of so many other men, emboldens the cruel people in power to continue waging their war on women.
“This is your wife. This is your sister. This is your friend. This is your girlfriend. This is the mother of your children. This is all of us,” Rapinoe said. “And you are allowing a violent and consistent onslaught on the autonomy of women’s bodies, on women’s rights, on women’s minds, on our hearts, on our souls.
“You,” she added, “are complicit in all of this.”
As news of the ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization spread, female athletes and women’s sports leagues were quick to express their anger and heartbreak.
Olympic champion Chloe Kim called the decision “absolutely devastating.” “Furious and ready to fight,” the Seattle Storm said. Candace Parker posted one photo of a mug with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s face on it and the quote, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” and another of Breanna Stewart in a T-shirt defending abortion rights.
NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said the ruling “denies individuals in this country the full liberty and equality that is a cornerstone of a just society” and promised that the league and its players would “continue to make our voices heard.”
The quick reactions, and the rage and anguish behind them, made the lack of response by almost any high-profile male athlete all the more glaring.
Kyler Murray stepped up, saying on Twitter that, “No one should be able to force their beliefs on anyone’s body, that is not right. Sending love to our women.” So, too, Damien Harris, who tweeted that “This is about power and the war on women.. Scary, scary times.”
But the rest?
LeBron James barely exerted himself, retweeting the statement by former President Barack Obama along with a few other posts highlighting the inequities the decision will exacerbate. Meanwhile, Tom Brady, a master of social media who never misses a chance to gush publicly about his wife, his mom, his sisters or his niece, had nothing to say. Steph Curry must still be recovering from Golden State’s championship celebration because he wasn’t heard from, either.
Even Sean Doolittle, as close as Major League Baseball has to a moral conscience, had no reaction as of mid-afternoon.
“We live in a country that forever tries to chip away at what you have innately, what you have been privileged enough to feel your entire life,” Rapinoe said. “I should not be the loudest voice in the room. No woman should be the loudest voice in the room.
“This is what allyship looks like,” she added. “This is what, frankly, doing the right thing looks like.”
But too often, men are happy to accept the support of women for issues they care about, matters that directly affect them, only to abandon us when it’s our turn.
It’s been largely forgotten, but the first athletes to protest police brutality of people of color, particularly Black men, were WNBA players, the Minnesota Lynx and New York Liberty, specifically. One of the few athletes from outside the NFL to kneel in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick was Rapinoe.
So where are male athletes now?
Far from being a “women’s issue,” erasing abortion rights should terrify everyone in this country. If women can be forced to have a child they don’t want or are ill-equipped to have, or to continue a pregnancy that threatens their health, what is to stop radical right-wing politicians from interfering in the rest of our lives? From dictating what we can and can’t do in the privacy of our homes? From punishing people who have the audacity to decide for themselves what is best for them and their family?
This has never been simply about abortion rights. It’s about a small minority trying to excise control over the rest of the country, to make us live in the way they want and according to the rules they devise. Justice Clarence Thomas gave that game away in his concurring opinion, when he said the decisions that legalized contraception, gay sex and gay marriage should also be overturned.
If standing up for the women they know and love isn’t motivation enough for male athletes, then they should stand up for themselves. Because, eventually, it will be some right they hold dear and thought was secure that will be hanging in the balance.
“This is a callout, but also a call-in,” Rapinoe said. “We clearly cannot do this on our own with the composition of the power structure in our country. And, frankly, that falls on you.”
Sadly, the men on the Supreme Court weren't the only ones who failed women Friday.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Roe v. Wade overturned: Silent male athletes are failing women