The talented captain of the US women’s national soccer team is one of the country’s biggest sports star, but nowadays she is mostly known for her refusal to sing the national anthem as a political statement.
Thus, 33-year-old Megan Rapinoe joins the likes of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have been protesting during the national anthem on sports events since 2016 to raise awareness about racially motivated police brutality.
While most athletes that have supported the protests are African-Americans, Rapinoe, a white woman, has made headlines after showing solidarity to the movement since the start, and she explained her reasons to do so.
On October 6, 2016, Rapinoe published an essay entitled “Why I am Kneeling,” defending her right to take a stand about an urgent issue and denying the accusations of being “unpatriotic.”
“I am the same woman who has worn the Stars and Stripes across her chest, proud and beaming. I am one of the women you have called an American hero, and not just once,” Rapinoe wrote.
“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street. But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache,” the California native added.
“I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way,” Rapinoe continued.
“When I take a knee, I am facing the flag with my full body, staring straight into the heart of our country’s ultimate symbol of freedom — because I believe it is my responsibility, just as it is yours, to ensure that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country,” she added.
In May, Ropinoe became the first openly gay woman to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
While the movement initially responded to the loss of black lives because of racial bias within the police corps, it has transformed also in a form of resistance against President Donald Trump and his alleged links to white nationalism.
“Because I’m as talented as I am, I get to be here, you don’t get to tell me if I can be here or not,” Rapinoe told Yahoo! Sports in May.
“So it’s kind of a [expletive] to any sort of inequality or bad sentiments that the [Trump] administration might have towards people who don’t look exactly like him,” the openly gay soccer player said.
In the polarized current US political climate, it is not surprising that Rapinoe’s position on this issue is meeting mixed reactions from the public, with some praising her and others attacking her for her attitude.
“Megan Rapinoe was one of the first white people to kneel in support of Kaepernick. She's immensely brave and any attempts to smear her as unpatriotic are just the same old means to deflect from the issues she seeks to shed light on. She represents patriotism in its truest form,” someone tweeted.
“Megan Rapinoe is anti-American. Get out of this country you’re not wanted. You are a disgraceful, disrespectful human being,” someone who disagrees with the sportswoman commented.
During the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Rapinoe drew attention to herself with her decision not to take part in the national anthem.
While she didn’t kneel, she visibly stood silently with her arms by her sides, in contrast to the rest of the team who always sing and put one hand on their chests during this part of the sports events.
Rapinoe seems to be equally committed to her soccer career and to social change, and she is using her platform to advocate for the things that matter the most to her.
In May, Rapinoe became the first openly gay woman to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, alongside three of her teammates.
“I think it’s really quite a bold statement by Sports Illustrated to be honest because it has been seen as sort of this magazine only for heterosexual males,” Rapinoe said.
“Stereotypes still very much persist and they are just such incomplete views of who we really are as people, so I think for that reason it’s really important to just continue to push those boundaries,” she defended.