Megan Rapinoe has always been about goals, both the scoring and achieving of them.
On the football field, the 35-year-old forward has plundered them for fun, notching 52 for her country over the best part of 15 years — not to mention the 68 assists during 168 appearances.
On her watch, the co-captain has helped the United States win two World Cups, Olympic gold, and countless other trophies for the United States Women’s National Soccer team (USWNT) and her club sides.
Individual goals are also synonymous with Rapinoe’s remarkable career: In 2019 alone, she swept the board at the World Cup, being awarded the Golden Boot (top goalscorer), Golden Ball (best player) and Player of the Match for victory over the Netherlands in the final (she opened the scoring in the 2-0 win).
Rapinoe then went on to be recognized as the second ever female recipient of the Ballon d’Or –Norway’s Ada Hegerberg was the first winner in 2018 — in addition to being named Best FIFA Women’s player.
But when all is said and done, Rapinoe’s accomplishments off the field may trump her sporting prowess.
Activism is at the forefront of her mind, from kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 in support of Colin Kaepernick — Rapinoe was among the first White professional athletes to show solidarity with the NFL player, soon after it was observed he was kneeling — to being outspoken throughout the 2019 World Cup in France, reiterating her refusal to visit the White House if the team emerged victorious.
Through it all, Rapinoe has been an advocate in her national team’s quest for equality and inclusivity.
Fair and equitable society
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that in this next phase of her personal campaign for women’s rights, civil rights and racial justice, Rapinoe has now joined the ranks of talk show hosts, with new HBO Sports special “Seeing America with Megan Rapinoe” airing this past Saturday (HBO and CNN are both part of the WarnerMedia family).
Rapinoe was joined by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, and her fellow TV presenter Hasan Minhaj.
“I believe that we all have a responsibility to make the world a better place,” Rapinoe explained to CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour.
“I clearly am very lucky to have a platform to get to play for the United States and be able to take on some of these issues … I think that we can live in a more fair and equitable society; I think that we can have a better life.
“And I think we don’t have to live particularly with what’s happening right now. I don’t think we have to live in this world; I think it can be better, and so, for me, I try to use all of the resources, or platform, or a microphone if it’s given to me to do what I can to make the world a better place.”
‘We have a choice’
Rapinoe’s words and actions have turned the soccer star into a role model for thoughtful political activism within the sports world.
Though a relatively recent development, the days of sports stars being told to “stay in your lane,” or “shut up and dribble” seem a lifetime ago, with the protests around the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the wider recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Yet Rapinoe says further change is tied to the ballot box in America a few months from now, when the election takes place.
“If we do this together, and if we show up in November, and if we hold the people who are supposed to be representing us accountable, there is a way forward,” Rapinoe begins.
“We can choose to make this world and make our country a more fair and equitable place. I think sports is a good analogy for that. You get people from all over the country, from every different background coming together, for a common goal and obviously when the group comes together like that, you get something that’s more special than you could ever do on your own.
“I hope people see that we do have a choice, and we have a choice who we elect into office to hold accountable. Representative [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez said, ‘We’re not electing our saviors; we’re electing the people who we get to hold accountable, who we get to work with and who we think that can help us shape our country into a better place.’
“And so I hope people feel energized and feel like they have not only a responsibility, but they can be the changemaker in the world in a really special way.”
‘You Can’t Stop Us’
Her star continues to shine, even if Rapinoe has not been playing soccer with her team OL Reign of late. She has just narrated an advert from Nike’s “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign, which delves into areas of equality, gender and race.
Whereas in the past it has not been easy to combine politics and sports, does the 2020 version of Rapinoe ignore the pushback from her critics and proceed with her agenda?
“Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s always been easy for me to mix it, some people just don’t like the cocktail, they’re still getting used to it,” beams Rapinoe.
“I find it very easy. I think that our world is very dynamic and everybody in it is very dynamic, and so to do a number of different things at one time seems normal.”