It’s hard to think of a bigger American soccer star than Megan Rapinoe right now. The World Cup champion has a career that few can match. However, what sets Rapinoe apart is the work she does for racial justice off the field. As a white American woman in sports, this made her a target for hatred from many fellow Americans. However, Rapinoe is not one to rest on her laurels just because they offend others.
Megan Rapinoe takes the field
Growing up in Redding, CA, Rapinoe grew up a passionate soccer player, details FB Ref. She got her first glimpse of semi-pro soccer in the WPSL’s Elk Grove United club. There, she and her sister Rachael, alongside future Team USA teammate Stephanie Cox began to make names for themselves. Rapinoe was just a teen. When she graduated from high school, she took her talents to the college ranks.
Rapinoe led the University of Portland from 2005 to 2008, details the Sacramento Bee, shattering records in only 60 appearances on the field. After college, Rapinoe went pro, first to the Chicago Red Stars with the second pick of the inaugural WPS draft. Rapinoe quickly made a name for herself in the league, although it shuttered after only three seasons of operation.
After her first Women’s world cup in 2011, Rapinoe took her talents overseas to Sydney FC for two games as a rental. Then, she joined several of her USA teammates in Seattle Reign FC, part of the NWSL. There, she honed her play until the 2012 Olympics when she helped lead the senior national team to a gold medal. A star was born beyond the local leagues.
Despite all of her accomplishments, Rapinoe’s crowning achievements are her 2015 and 2019 women’s world cup victories. They helped her reach the mainstream beyond women’s soccer. Her activism made her a target for hatred from her own country, however.
Rapinoe, the activist
While books could be written about Rapinoe’s success as an athlete, her place beyond the sport is even more critical. An openly gay woman who stands up for social justice will always have a target on her back. However, after Rapinoe publicly joined Colin Kaepernick for his kneeling protest, her spotlight grew even bigger, according to Insider.
Rapinoe wrote about how white Americans turned on her after she stood up for what was right in her book One Life, which chronicled her life in the international soccer community. Insider has more details:
“When I joined Colin’s protest, I knew that my whiteness and the whiteness of my sport in general probably offered some degree of immunity. I was also a woman — loud, yes, but small, pale, and, in the eyes of a lot of angry white men, relatively unthreatening … To his detractors, Colin was the embodiment of the racist stereotype of the aggressive Black male … To my own, I assumed I’d be little more than an irritant.”
Rapinoe’s own family warned her about the protests, too. They noted that no matter if she were right or wrong, her place would be cemented for those who chose to ignore the meat behind her protest and focused on her kneeling. According to Insider, she writes:
“Those who are discriminated against shouldn’t have to fight alone, and leaving advocacy to the marginalized group itself — the group most at risk of dismissal or reprisal — is, frankly, outrageous… As the summer [of 2016] wore on and Black Lives Matter became more prominent, I felt as if everyone had a duty to join.”
To the surprise of no one, reports Insider, Rapinoe’s entire book is filled with nuggets about her journey. From anecdotes about her complicated relationship with her brother to what it was like to be an openly gay athlete in a society that still has a long way to go before it achieves acceptance, Rapinoe is an unfiltered open book in more ways than one.
One Life is available everywhere, but if Rapinoe’s life until now is any indication, her story still has many chapters waiting to be written.