Megan Rapinoe is not only one of the greatest women's football players ever, but has also used her platform to affect change.
Perhaps the story that best sums up US women’s football star Megan Rapinoe is her sudden feud with then-US president Donald Trump. During the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a reporter asked Rapinoe if she was excited to go to the White House. The question was in reference to what would happen if they won the tournament. Rapinoe’s answer was short, to the point, and made her feelings on Trump perfectly clear. “I’m not going to the f*****g White House,” she said. Trump, well-known to take shots at anyone who went against him, hit back on Twitter. “Megan should WIN before she TALKS,” was part of his sneering reply.
Well, Rapinoe and the USWNT won the World Cup. And true to their word, they didn’t go to the White House.
The story sums up the legendary American football (or soccer) star. She’s not only a champion on the pitch; she’s fought for many things off the field too.
As Rapinoe turns 36 today (July 5), we look at the person and activist behind the player.
Rapinoe is openly gay, and is seen by many as someone who’s championed LGBTQA+ rights. According to Rapinoe herself, she knew about her sexual orientation in college itself.
However, she didn’t come out as gay until an interview in 2012 with Out magazine. She has worked for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. She is also an ambassador for Athlete Ally, an NPO focusing on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports.
Rapinoe also caught the attention of many when she kneeled during the national anthem in an international football game in September 2016. The kneel was in tribute to Colin Kaepernick, the NFL star who used the method to protest police brutality and champion minority rights.
“It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now,” she said after the match.
“I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it.”
Her kneeling led to condemnation from fans, experts and even US Soccer. However, she continued to do it. When criticised, she stated that “using this blanketed patriotism as a defense against what the protest actually is was pretty cowardly”.
She also said she would probably never sing the national anthem again.
The national anthem issue isn’t the only time she’s squared off with US Soccer. Lest we forget, she and a number of other players filed a lawsuit against the federation. The reason? Equal pay.
“Men are so often paid and compensated on the potential that they show, not necessarily what they’ve done,” Megan Rapinoe said.
“And women are so often paid on what they’ve actually done. Which normally I would say, we outperform what our contract was.”
She even called for equal pay earlier this year on Equal Pay Day. “There is no level of status, accomplishments, or power that will protect you from the clutches of inequity,” Rapinoe said in her written testimony in honor of Equal Pay Day.
“The women’s national team has won four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals on behalf of our country.
“We have filled stadiums, broken viewing records, and sold out jerseys, all popular metrics by which we are judged.”
Rapinoe’s career will, of course, end one day. But one can only hope that the work she’s put in elsewhere will affect positive change.