She may not be going to “the fucking White House,” but Megan Rapinoe is definitely going places.
Following a record-smashing second consecutive World Cup victory, the breakout star of the United States women’s national soccer team has cemented her status as the hero America needs right now.
Alex Morgan may be the team’s tea-miming single-game top-scorer, and Ashlyn Harris its uncontested Instagram queen, but it’s Rapinoe who has transcended the game and the moment to imprint herself fully upon popular culture as a world-class leader and a role model well worth emulating.
With her extremely proud girlfriend, WNBA star Sue Bird, cheering from the sidelines, Rapinoe has spent this past week steeped in the media spotlight, which she not only withstood but seemed to seize and train where she wanted it to go. At a time when the country needs more public figures to unequivocally rally behind (and way fewer running for president), she’s a brash, bold breath of fresh air.
On the occasion of Wednesday’s USWNT ticker-tape parade in New York City, here are five ways Rapinoe has demonstrated excellence on the field and off.
1. She’s very good at what she does
After having to abstain from the semifinals due to an injury, Rapinoe scored all of the U.S.’s goals in knockout-round matches against Spain and France, along with the opening goal in her team’s 2-0 victory over the Netherlands, earning a cache of awards in the process. She won the Golden Ball for best World Cup player and the Golden Boot for its top scorer, and the 34-year old is now the first woman to start in three consecutive World Cup finals. Additionally, her heavily memed victory pose has earned her some high-level sports fans.
2. She uses her platform to advocate for what she believes in
In addition to being a highly visible LGBTQ athlete who openly credits her sexuality as central to her success, Rapinoe is an ally to other marginalized groups. Indeed, her advocacy is intersectional, reaching far beyond the LGBTQ community. During the World Cup, Rapinoe took a stand against police brutality by taking a knee in solidarity with the NFL movement started by Colin Kaepernick, giving renewed worldwide attention to the issue.
3. She speaks truth directly to power
Another goal she believes in, of course, is equal pay for women—specifically herself and her fellow teammates, who will receive $30 million for their victory compared with the $400 million due the men’s team in the same situation.
“Everyone is kind of asking what’s next and what we want to come of all of this,” Rapinoe said as FIFA president Gianni Infantino handed out medals after the game and the crowd chanted “Equal Pay.”
“It’s to stop having the conversation about equal pay and are we worth it and should we and the investment piece. What are we going to do about it? Gianni, what are we going to do about it?”
As if that wasn’t enough of a boss move, though, Rapinoe took another chance this week to address the powers that be, head on.
"Your message is excluding people. 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."
US Women’s National Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe's message to Pres. Trump. pic.twitter.com/4PbKx0hSxv
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) July 10, 2019
After preemptively declining an invitation to the White House, Rapinoe has used her post-victory prominence to address Donald Trump directly. On a Tuesday night appearance on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, she coolly and calmly explained her exact grievance with the president, rather than airing a stream of inflammatory invectives her detractors could point to as unhinged.
4. She knows her worth
— Emmy Bengtson (@EmmyA2) July 10, 2019
Rapinoe never shies away from celebrating her successes. And why should she? It’s exactly right time to be publicly proud of her profound accomplishments. Considering that women have historically been conditioned to downplay their triumphs, it’s also a healthy display for the next generation of girls to see. Interestingly, some who would criticize Rapinoe for openly celebrating are also devotees of Donald Trump, who is forever gracelessly bragging about accomplishments both unearned and imagined.
5. She never gives short shrift to her team
Megan Rapinoe: “Just shoutout to the teammates… We’re chillin’. We’ve got tea sippin’. We’ve got celebrations. We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos and dreadlocks. We’ve got white girls and black girls, and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls. Hey!” pic.twitter.com/2b0EhQvmlm
— CNN (@CNN) July 10, 2019
She defends her teammates when they’re attacked and praises them while hoisting her own trophies. Rapinoe spreads credit and glory around where it’s due, because that’s exactly what a true leader does.