In a recent cover story interview, Megan Rapinoe told Time Magazine that she “absolutely” would accept a trans woman on the USWNT, just days before the start of the Women’s World Cup.

You could practically see conservative pundits and others who want to keep trans women out of women’s sports racing to be the first to read their completed Outrage Mad Libs on camera.

Not surprising to many, Fox News helped lead the way.

Their talking heads’ main complaint centered around how Rapinoe’s embrace of a hypothetical transgender teammate coincided with her retirement.

As Riley Gaines spelled it out on to Piers Morgan, “Notice how earlier this week she announced her retirement. So she’s done playing. This is a classic case of virtue signaling. She wants to be seen as kind. She wants to be seen as inclusive.”

The implication was clear: Of course, Rapinoe would argue for transgender inclusion on her team now that she’s retiring. She gets to sound like a hero and doesn’t have to worry about a trans woman taking her roster spot.

Gaines’ attack implied that Rapinoe has no integrity supporting her fight for transgender rights. Which would have been a concern if there were no instances of Rapinoe advocating for trans athlete inclusion in a 2022 Time story or slamming Caitlyn Jenner for her anti-trans athlete stance or supporting Lia Thomas on Twitter or advocating against trans athlete bans at the state level

Perhaps the buried lede from all of this is: Research is woke, I guess.

Megan Rapinoe pays tribute to Quinn after they became the first out transgender athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in 2021.

Speaking of being confused by basic human progress, Clay Travis also weighed in. Appearing on Fox’s “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” Travis attempted to further undercut Rapinoe’s credibility with an anecdote that he apparently pulls out anytime her name is mentioned.

“The reality is Megan Rapinoe is not going to defend her position,” Travis claimed, “because Megan Rapinoe was on a U.S. Women’s soccer team that played against 15-year-old boys — 15-year-old boys — in Dallas, Texas and got beat 5-2. That’s because even boys are better than the U.S. Women.” The match result he referenced was actually accurate. That USWNT friendly scrimmage loss to FC Dallas U-15 Boys Academy took place in 2017.

But as CBS Sports soccer writer Roger Gonzalez wrote at the time, “Of course, this match against the academy team was very informal and should not be a major cause for alarm. The U.S. surely wasn’t going all out, with the main goal being to get some minutes on the pitch, build chemistry when it comes to moving the ball around, improve defensive shape, and get ready for [friendlies against] Russia.”

It was also reasonable to conclude that the USWNT weren’t putting in an all-out effort to go for the kill when they spent part of the time taking selfies with their opponents. Nonetheless, Travis had a talking point that he wanted to hammer home and he wasn’t going to let something as trivial as analysis from a legitimate expert in the field get in his way.

“Men are obviously bigger, stronger and faster than women and they’re going to take away, at some point, a woman’s opportunity to compete for a championship,” Travis intoned. “And Megan Rapinoe, I think, is cowardly because she’s taking this position, as Riley pointed out, just in time to retire.”

Yes, he called her cowardly. Because when you think “Megan Rapinoe,” you think “chicken-hearted wimp who always backs down from a challenge.”

There certainly can’t be easily located evidence of her taking a knee during the national anthem to protest systemic racism and enduring massive outrage in the aftermath, or speaking out against the sitting president of the United States while simultaneously winning the World Cup.

This was precisely the kind of take you get from a sports analyst who made his grand entrance into the journalism field by eating pudding cups for 50 consecutive days.

Megan Rapinoe demonstrating more bravery than Clay Travis has ever shown in his life.

Not to be outdone, during a segment on “The Five,” Jesse Watters turned in the most bizarre riff of all.

“Some people have told me that I have actually done more for women’s sports than Megan Rapinoe has done,” Watters mused. “That maybe she’s a traitor in the war on women and I have fought valiantly in that war, obviously on the women’s side. And that’s not me saying that and I actually disagree with that. I’m just saying something that’s being said.”

Watters seemed to be under the mistaken impression that if he strung enough words together, a punchline would spontaneously occur out of thin air.

But hey, he managed to get that “traitor in the war on women” soundbite out. That’s the only thing many in his audience wanted to hear anyway.

In the wake of Rapinoe’s Time interview, right-wing media figures reflexively fell back on the same culture war nonsense they’ve tried to stoke throughout her entire career. Clearly, her announcement that this was her last year in professional soccer didn’t change anything and actually gave many at Fox News and other talking heads something new to be angry about.

Which means that even Rapinoe’s impending retirement is something that she can be proud of.