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Gay, opinionated, female and bullet-proof, Megan Rapinoe is Donald Trump's worst nightmare

The US women’s team winger is a person of resolute character and motivated by morals.

Image: Richard Callis via www.imago-images.de

Updated Jun 28th 2019, 8:30 AM

THE VIDEO HAS now amassed 11 million views across Twitter. And the reason? A two-second soundbite. 

“I’m not going to the fucking White House.”

If you can still keep a sense of humour about these kinds of things, the outrage has been particularly funny because so many of those ‘offended’ by Megan Rapinoe’s comment, including the President of the United States, clearly have no idea who she is.

If they did, they’d know that her disdain for the current administration and everything it represents goes back a long, long way.

Then again, the finer details don’t seem to be their thing. 

However, they mean a great deal to Rapinoe. 

She is a person of resolute character and although much has been made of the inevitably sausage-fingered attempts of Donald Trump to carve her up and feed her to the lunatics, Rapinoe’s thick skin just so happens to be covered in layers of teflon too.   

The thing is, she has been immersed in a vitriolic cesspool of abuse for years. And effortlessly shirks it off.    

She’s a gay, opinionated woman. All three characteristics – for plenty of people – are reasons to be suspicious and intimidated.  

In September 2016, Rapinoe took a knee – in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s protests – when the US national anthem was played before an NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) game. Afterwards, she eloquently laid out her reasons. It wasn’t some throwaway cry for attention. There was a depth to her actions.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of colour on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”  

Vlatko Andonovski, Megan Rapinoe Rapinoe is a long-term advocate for the LGBTQ community. Source: Jane Gershovich

Later, she expanded on those reasons for a powerful and motivating piece in The Player’s Tribune.

If you are in a position of influence like I am, you can use your platform to elevate the millions of voices being silenced, and support them in the tremendous work already being done. Even more simply, you can ask yourself this question: “Do I truly care about equality for all people in this country?”

After condemning her actions, US Soccer changed their policy to avoid any more negative press, effectively requiring every representative of the team to stand during the anthem.

Noble. 

Bring it back even further to 2014 when Rapinoe was battling a range of injuries while trying to prepare for the World Cup the following year. The tournament, hosted by Canada, was played exclusively on artificial turf for the first time ever.

“I think it’s absolutely absurd that we’re playing on turf and it’s really a slap in the face to women’s football by FIFA and just a show of disrespect,” Rapinoe said. 

“There’s an aspect to the purity of the game and the quality of the game that’s played on grass that makes it different to turf. They can say what they want, but it’s all bullshit to me.”

The US team subsequently filed a lawsuit in Canadian court alleging gender discrimination.

Later that year – during a victory tour for what-proved a World Cup triumph – they refused to play a friendly in Hawaii because of the condition of the artificial surface at Aloha Stadium. The humiliating episode led to some major grovelling from then-US Soccer president Sunil Gulati.

When she posed for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition earlier this year, she became the first openly gay woman to do so.

She wanted to do it for one reason: rip up the cliche. 

“I think so often with gay females in sports there’s this particular stereotype about it and there’s such a narrow view of what it means to be gay and be athletic,” she said. 

“So, to kind of just blow that up and and do something totally different I think is really important. I think our view is still way too narrow of gay people in general. 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.”

Soccer: International Friendly Women's Soccer-Australia at USA Rapinoe has put her head above the parapet many times before and won't be affected by the furore of recent days. Source: USA TODAY Network

In 2018, she posed for the Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine alongside her girlfriend, legendary WNBA player Sue Bird. They became the first openly gay couple to feature on the cover.

“I think it’s important to do these things first,” Rapinoe told Jemele Hill. 

“It’s important for people to come out. Visibility is important. It’s important for there to be a first one on the cover [of the Body Issue], or whatever. Just in terms of the culture and society, someone has to do it.”  

Cause. 

This entire US team is driven by a higher purpose. Yes, winning a World Cup is the objective but there is always more work to be done. 

Rapinoe is perhaps the loudest but the squad has looked to always use its voice and wider position of influence to carry an impact.  

And look around. They’ve certainly accomplished a lot. 

The well-deserved praise that has been dished out throughout this tournament – for the TV viewing figures, for the quality of the games – you can trace quite a lot of it back to these US players.

From a football perspective, they’ve repeatedly raised the bar. And when it comes to building profiles based on talent, figures like Rapinoe and Alex Morgan (and before them the likes of Abby Wambach and Hope Solo) have led the charge. For a long time, the only relatively well-known female footballer was Marta. It’s also worth considering if Ada Hegerberg’s decision to pull back from the Norwegian setup because of her issues with how the women’s program is run would have happened without the US team’s constant criticism of their own federation and long-time quest for equality.   

“I’m not going to the fucking White House”.   

This team, with Rapinoe as its spiritual leader, is on the right side of history.       

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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