Megan Rapinoe broke new ground by using her platform within football as a vehicle to empower change. She’s regularly encountered obstacles and opposition but continues to fly the flag for diversity and equality in 2019.
Football gives a tremendous platform to those who reach its highest echelons. Once that level is reached, a player can use it in almost any way they choose.
Some opt to strengthen their personal brand; others completely ignore it, simply wanting to focus on football; very few utilise that platform to inspire change. It’s difficult to blame anyone for their choice – many of us will never face such a decision. Megan Rapinoe has, and she admirably chose change.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup was the biggest yet, and the USWNT leader lit it up, netting six goals throughout the tournament. They weren’t just any goals, either. There were two clinically hit penalties against Spain to reach the quarter-finals, and a brace against the hosts, France, to reach the semis.
As a woman built for the big stage, whether in a stadium or an auditorium, she was never going to stop there. When her side navigated their way past England to reach the final, Rapinoe ensured she had her say on the tournament’s swansong. It was her penalty that finally got the better of the stubborn Dutch goalkeeper, Sari van Veenendaal, and set her side on the path to World Cup glory.
Not content merely dwelling on her side’s success during the ensuing victory parade, she instead seized the opportunity to make a point: “This is my charge to everybody: do what you can. Do what you have to do, step outside yourself. Be more, be better, be bigger than you’ve ever been before.”
The captain wants her team to represent more than just football: “If this team is any representation of what you can be when you do that, please take this as an example. This group is incredible, we took so much on our shoulders to be here today, to celebrate with you today and we did it with a smile, so do the same for us.”
Rapinoe embodied the boldness she spoke of during the prestigious tournament, especially through her celebrations. She would spread her arms out wide, looking outwards with an untouchable confidence, opening herself up to the glory she was experiencing, as well as the wrath of anyone unfond of her.
After all, there are many who’ve taken issue with the Reign FC star, whether it be for her outlandish style, her boldness to address what she believes in with unwavering spirit, or the fact she simply refuses to conform.
There have been those who call her arrogant, nitpicking at the way she signed a ball for a fan, or celebrated her goals on the pitch – even for shouting “I deserve this” as she clenched the World Cup trophy and a bottle of champagne.
However, it has become apparent that none of this will change her. She remains on a personal mission to bring about positive change in 2019 and beyond. Even when she won The Best FIFA Women's Player 2019, Rapinoe had a strong message to convey:
“We have such an incredible opportunity being professional football players, we have so much success – financial and otherwise – we have incredible platforms.”
She then made a request to those in attendance: “Lend your platform to other people, lift other people up, share your success. We have a unique opportunity in football, different to any other sport in the world, to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for better.”
Rapinoe doesn’t just talk, she leads. The US captain knelt with Colin Kaepernick, and in that acceptance speech alone, stood with Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly against racism, Collin Martin and the rest of her fellow LGBTQ players to combat homophobia, and openly questioned the lack of equal pay in her sport.
Rapinoe uses her stage to make the biggest impact possible and will continue to do so, whether that’s on a football pitch, at award ceremonies, or through further involvements with EA SPORTS.