Megan Rapinoe, the indomitable force in women’s football, has left an indelible mark on the sport and society. From her dazzling skills on the pitch to her unwavering commitment to social activism, Rapinoe has become a true icon and a driving force for change. This article delves into the extraordinary career of Megan Rapinoe, exploring her on-field achievements, the impact she has had on women’s football, her activism, and the debates she has sparked.
A Bittersweet Farewell – Megan Rapinoe’s Last Penalty
Yesterday at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Melbourne Australia, Megan Rapinoe stepped up to take the seventh penalty of an extraordinary shootout of the Round of 16 in the Women’s World Cup. Taking a deep breath, she cast her gaze towards the goal and delivered a powerful strike, but unfortunately, the ball soared over the crossbar. She turned away and smiled, unable to believe what had just happened.
“For me I walk away from the game having gotten everything out of it that I possibly could. I’ve enjoyed every moment, and celebrated, and fought, and just laid it all out there,” said Rapinoe after the game. “But at the same time, as hard as this is, I feel like I’m ready to go.”
“I’ve always tried to use whatever platform we have – and this platform was built long before I got here and we’ve just continued to add to it – to grow the game, to make the world a better place, to use our voices to advocate for more,” she explained, when asked about her legacy.
Emotion overcame her after the game. Her eyes were filled with tears, and yet she managed an ironic smile, one that emanated total disbelief. Encircled by her teammates, many offered words of comfort and support. Having announced her retirement before the World Cup, it was a profoundly disappointing way to bid farewell to the US Women’s National Team and the sport she had dedicated herself to for almost two decades. This was not how Rapinoe had envisaged ending her illustrious career.
The G.O.A.T of Women’s Soccer – Megan Rapinoe’s Legacy
Throughout her illustrious career, Megan Rapinoe has been the driving force behind the US Women’s National Team’s major successes, turning the team into a global brand. While the team’s most high-profile triumphs came in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, it was in the 2011 edition that Rapinoe truly announced herself on the world stage.
In the quarterfinals of that tournament, the team was on the brink of elimination against Brazil, trailing 1-0 in the 122nd minute. Just seconds away from defeat, Rapinoe produced a moment of brilliance, delivering one of the most iconic crosses in Women’s World Cup history to set up Abby Wambach for the equalizing goal. The game eventually went to penalties, and the US triumphed. Rapinoe’s impact on the pitch at major tournaments became evident, and after helping the team lift the trophy in 2015, her stardom reached new heights in 2019.
Rapinoe was instrumental in the USWNT’s second consecutive World Cup triumph in France. She notched six goals in the competition, winning the Golden Boot, and was also awarded the prestigious Golden Ball. Following the tournament, she achieved the pinnacle of individual recognition – the prestigious Ballon d’Or Féminin award. With accolades piling up, Rapinoe became the face of women’s football, captivating fans around the globe.
“Her successes helped to grow the game on the global stage and have since paved the way for others to be successful. She’s a player who has really changed the game, not only in the US but globally,” said long-time teammate Alex Morgan before the loss to Sweden. Rapinoe’s leadership on the biggest stage has had a significant impact, inspiring a new generation of female footballers to pursue their dreams.
Activism and Advocacy – The Heart of Megan Rapinoe
Beyond the football field, Megan Rapinoe has been a relentless advocate for gender equality and inclusion. Her passion for using her platform to drive social change has been an integral part of her identity as a player and an individual.
In 2016, Rapinoe made her first high-profile protest by kneeling during the national anthem before a friendly game against the Netherlands. Her gesture aimed to bring attention to racial injustice in the United States and was done in solidarity with black NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who was also kneeling during the anthem.
But Rapinoe’s activism wasn’t limited to the anthem protests. In 2019, just months before the World Cup in France, she, along with her teammates, filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation, accusing them of gender discrimination. The lawsuit highlighted the significant pay disparity between male and female players despite the women’s team consistently outperforming their male counterparts.
The controversy escalated when Rapinoe stated that she would “not f***ing go to the White House” if the team managed to win the World Cup, which drew a response from then-President Donald Trump. Despite the tension, Rapinoe and her teammates persisted in their fight for equality, sparking a nationwide debate and drawing attention to the disparities in women’s sports.
In May 2022, Rapinoe and her teammates achieved a breakthrough when a labor agreement was reached, ensuring that US men and women’s international teams would receive equal World Cup prize money pay. This historic moment highlighted the economic disparity between men and women in football and solidified Rapinoe’s image as an icon in the realm of activism.
Trans Rights – The Divisive Debate Surrounding Megan Rapinoe
While Rapinoe’s activism has garnered widespread support, her views on transgender inclusion have been highly divisive. Her staunch support for trans rights and the participation of transgender athletes in sports has sparked significant debate across the sporting world and society.
Rapinoe’s belief in the inclusion of transgender athletes challenges the transphobic arguments against it. She firmly stands by the idea that trans women are real women and should be allowed to compete in sports without discrimination. Her advocacy for trans inclusion has become a defining aspect of her activism, drawing both praise and criticism.
As Megan Rapinoe bids farewell to the USWNT and soccer, her legacy as a trailblazing icon will live on. Her remarkable impact on women’s football, her fearless activism, and her unwavering commitment to advocating for social change have solidified her place as one of the all-time greats of the game.
While her last penalty miss may have been a bitter ending, it is just one chapter in the extraordinary story of Megan Rapinoe, the woman who transformed football and fought for a more just and inclusive world. Her journey may be over on the pitch, but her influence will resonate for generations to come. Megan Rapinoe will forever be remembered as an iconic figure who not only changed the game of football but also left an indelible mark on society through her unwavering activism and advocacy.