By Dirk Smith
It’s safe to say, US Soccer superstar, Megan Rapinoe, has had quite a year! She led her team to the 2019 World Cup final against the Netherlands where they won. Rapinoe scored the winning goal in the 61st minute of the World Cup final, clinching a record fourth World Cup title for the Americans.
As the goal went in, the stadium crowd erupted in cheers as the US team swarmed the field to celebrate their achievement with Rapinoe who took on a defiant pose of triumph and joy. She gave the world “The Pose” with her pink hair, arms outstretched, chin up and head tipped back to send the world a message about what queer athletes can accomplish. This very image became one of the most iconic sports images of 2019.
However, the moment could have been very different, especially for Rapinoe who had to miss the semi-final against England due to an injured hamstring. Rapinoe’s mother and sister were there to celebrate her accomplishment, having been by her side through all the trials and tribulations. When Megan and her twin sister Rachael came out as gay to each other during their sophomore year, they’ve been playing soccer since they were five and have always supported each other.
Rapinoe has always been an outspoken and strong athlete; she was one of the first pro athletes to publicly support Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest against police brutality of racial minorities. A move that she received a lot of hate mail and harassment for, yet her family and her teammates stood by her. Even before the World Cup win, Rapinoe has been very strong and outspoken advocate for equal pay and treatment for female athletes. She led her teammates to sue the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay just three months before the World Cup; and her team publicly announced they would not visit Trump’s White House when they won the World Cup. A statement which led Trump to throw a fit.
“The Pose” is more than just a celebration of the win, as Rapinoe put it in her interview with Sports Illustrated;
“It was kind of like a ‘Fuck you,’ but with a big smile and a shit eating grin,” Rapinoe says. “You are not going to steal any of our joy.”
Rapinoe is only the fourth unaccompanied female athlete to win the title of Sportsperson of the Year in the 66-year history of the award. Ever since she burst on the scene for the U.S. National Team, she has been an agent of change with her unbridled confidence and enthusiasm for her game, love for her teammates and unapologetically living her authentic life.
However, she wasn’t quite prepared for the kind of impact she had on the world. After celebrating the championship win with her teammates in New York City and Los Angeles, Rapinoe and her girlfriend, WNBA player Sue Bird headed to LAX to fly home to Seattle when she received a few warnings from her teammates that she would not be able to go through airport security. The reason? Her teammates were getting mobbed by fans and people who saw Rapinoe and the US Women’s National Team as national heroes. Even without Rapinoe being there, thousands of people were eager to catch a glimpse of the famous lesbian midfielder with pink hair who has inspired millions.
Since then, Rapinoe has been working with Michelle Obama in a voter participation initiative, she inspired other female athletes and teams to campaign for equal pay, she has appeared on Meet the Press, Pod Save America and CNN to discuss politics, she was invited by NY Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex to Washington. Even before the World Cup, she was the first openly gay woman to model for Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
After the win, a U.S. Soccer rep confirmed that the White House did privately reach out to the team for a White House visit. The president of the U.S. Soccer Federation suggested.a trip to both the White House and Capitol Hill, but Rapinoe and her team stood their ground and reiterated that they did not want to meet Trump. While a visit to Congress would be acceptable, Trump is unworthy to share in their accomplishments.
Despite her newfound fame, Rapinoe has still been actively involved in running soccer camps and workshops for kids all over the US. She is still training with her team in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and as far as if she will pursue another World Cup title with her team? Well, she says she is going to wait until after the 2020 Olympics before deciding.
Photo Credit: By Jamie Smed from Cincinnati, Ohio – Megan Rapinoe, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80251189