US soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe's goals are equal pay and LGBT rights, and she's not playing around
A tornado of sorts on the field and a champion for equality off it, many say Megan Rapinoe, American soccer midfielder and co-captain of the national women's soccer team, is the best of America. A leader who has led her team fiercely through every game at the FIFA Women's World Cup this year, she has garnered inspiration and backlash alike.
Some said she and her team "celebrated too much" and weren't the "right kind" of ambassadors for the sport when they crushed Thailand 13-0 earlier last month. Rapinoe dismissed the hate with a laugh, letting us know she refuses to be guilt-tripped into not reaping her rewards and the world better get the memo.
Now 33 years old, her big personality, her activism and her quiet-yet-determined demeanor has made her an icon of our times. She's not just someone who bows to the Gods but questions them and holds them accountable. She's a knee bender, but for all the right reasons. The lavender-haired soccer queen knelt during the national anthem at an International match in September 2016, attempting to draw attention to the rampant social inequality in the U.S., kneeling in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.
If someone like Kaepernick was left on the sidelines like yesterday's trash, Rapinoe was facing possible oblivion. Her protest was outlawed by the soccer authority but she just couldn't "stand idly by" while other Americans were the victims of police brutality. So what makes her such a ball of fire? What makes her such a loud voice in the sea of censorship, political correctness and diplomacy? It isn't every day that a sportsperson's hometown names a day after them.
Rapinoe grew up with a huge happy family in rural Redding, California. Six siblings and dozens of cousins, she and her twin sister Rachael were the youngest and her favorite, her hero and her idol was her older brother Brian. It is said, she and Brian look very much alike and their personalities too match - the same charisma, the same cleverness, and the same humor. In fact, in 2011 when Rapinoe scored against Colombia at the World Cup, she burst into Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA', a trait, it is said, was definitely reminiscent Brian. Even soccer, she played simply because he did.
Although so alike their paths did not run into each other. When Brian was just 15 years old, he went to juvie after he was caught bringing meth to school. After that, it was just a matter of time before he would be in then out and back in again. Megan was 10 at the time, and the news was shattering. However, she continued pursuing the sport and at the same time as Brian's first stint behind bars, she went on to play with the U.S. national team.
Her sister Rachel also played, along with soccer player Stephanie Cox. The commute to play with Elk Grove Pride in the Women's Premier Soccer League was of two and a half hours and she stuck on from 2002 to 2005. A lot of college football, FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship, a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and West Coast Conference Player of the Year award among many other things later, she finally got to her club career in 2009.
She played for Sydney FC, Seattle Sounders Women, Olympique Lyonnais and since 2013, has been with Seattle Reign FC. Apart from her shining sports career, she was also named a finalist for Sports Illustrated's Most Inspiring Performers and was awarded the prestigious board of directors award by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
She's also an avid equal pay advocate. In March this year, she and 27 of her soccer teammates sued the United States Soccer Federation, accusing it of gender discrimination and pay disparity. France, the men’s FIFA World Cup winner in Russia, was awarded $38 million, while the winner of the women’s tournament takes home just $4 million.
Rapinoe is the first openly gay woman to appear in the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. Her dissent for the Trump administration in part is also because of policies impacting the gay community. Let's also not forget her iconic "You can’t win a championship without gays on your team" remark. She's shown every person from the community that they can be themselves and be captain of the soccer team and to those outside of the community, she is telling them that the queer are here to stay."
The President of the United States, the same one Rapinoe has never hidden her disdain against has invited the team over after the games - something she very publicly declined and explicitly. "I'm not going to the f***ing White House," she said. The rejection brought on a usual Twitter rant from the president, saying she should win before she talks, following which he went on to invite the "team" irrespective of whether they win or lose. She will be taking a tour of the House of Representatives with her team courtesy of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
She stands her ground, whether it is soccer or real life. She says it exactly how she sees it and is someone who had to be her own hero. Were she to be anything other than her fiery self, now, that would be a surprise.