Megan Rapinoe has been a professional soccer player for more than a decade. But you may have only become aware of the US women’s co-captain in the last few weeks.
It might have been when she declared her team, prior to beating the Netherlands in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, would not visit the White House if they won given the Trump administration’s woeful record on equality for women and the LGBTQI community.
“I’m not going to the f***ing White House,” she told reporters, resulting in a furious President Donald Trump tweeting, “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS!”
Or maybe it was in March, when Rapinoe led the charge to demand the US women’s soccer team earn the same as the US men’s team. Rapinoe and the entire team filed a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation on International Women’s Day, accusing the organisation of “institutionalized gender discrimination” over their pay.
According to the Guardian, each player on the US women’s national team could receive maximum earnings of about $260,000 for winning the Women’s World Cup. Meanwhile, each player on the US men’s national team could have earned nearly $1 million if the club had won the World Cup.
That’s the thing, though: the US men’s team has yet to play in a World Cup final and failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament.
The dispute took centre stage as Rapinoe and her team celebrated their win at a ticker tape parade in their honour in New York City on Wednesday. They were heard yelling “USA! Equal pay!” as their parade bus made its way through the streets of New York.
The crowd joined in the chant when U.S.S.F. chairman Carlos Cordeiro addressed the issue as he spoke after the parade, saying “we are committed to doing right by you”,his voice drowned out by thousands screaming “USA! Equal pay!”
Rapinoe, 34 and openly gay, gave a rousing call to action when she took the podium.
“I think the conversation needs to move from are we worth it, should we have equal pay to what can we do now,” she said.
“We’ve really left the old conversation behind us and now it’s time for that action.”
In a speech that felt more like that of a presidential candidate, she finished:
“This is my charge to everyone: We have to be better, we have to love more and hate less. Listen more and talk less. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place.”
— ESPN (@espn) July 10, 2019
Rapinoe knows the spotlight won’t be on her quite so intensely forever, and she’s clearly making the most of her platform while she has it.
In conversation with CNN host Anderson Cooper the night before, she directly addressed Donald Trump.
“I would say that your message is excluding people,” she said.
“You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.”
Going right for the core of Trump’s campaign, Rapinoe argued:
— TIME (@TIME) July 10, 2019
“I think that we need to have a reckoning with the message that you have and what you’re saying about ‘Making America Great Again.’ I think that you’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone: it might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world.
“You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone.”
Yes, that’s right. She told President Trump to “do better” on national television.
Rapinoe 2020? Probably not. But that’s okay – there’s still Kamala Harris.