Megan Rapinoe - American football star and activist for equality

Megan Rapinoe - American football star and activist for equality

Megan Rapinoe is an American international football player, known for her talents on the pitch and her activism for equal pay and lgbtqia+ rights.


Now one of the biggest stars in American football, Rapinoe began her professional career in 2009, when she was selected by the Chicago Red Stars in the second tier of Women's Professional Soccer. She played for the team for two seasons before joining Philadelphia Independence in 2011.


Her breakthrough came the following year when she was named captain of the US Women's National Team. A midfielder and winger, she played a key role in the team's success at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, as well as the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women's World Cups.


In 2012, Sounders Women General Manager Amy Carnell stated that Megan Rapinoe "is one of the most entertaining players in the game today. A difference maker in the 2011 World Cup, Megan plays with a level of flair and passion that is rarely seen.  Watching Megan you learn to expect the unexpected, raw emotion and pure guts to the final whistle is what you get." The team's head coach, Michelle French, also maintains that Megan's leadership and successes have allowed her to evolve and "grow into one of the most exciting, unpredictable, creative, and flashy players in the women’s game".


The 2019 World Cup consolidated her legacy. With six goals scored during the tournament, she was awarded the Golden Ball for Best Player and the European Golden Shoe for Best Scorer. Her iconic pose with outstretched arms after scoring against France has become one of the most memorable images of the tournament.


To this day, her reputation continues to grow. Since 2014, she has been part of OL Reign, an American soccer club in the National Women's Soccer League, and plays in the striker position. Today, she is also captain of the team.


In 2022, Rapinoe took part in the CONCACAF Women's Championship. Her team finished as world champions. The following year, she was one of 23 players selected to take part in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, her team was eliminated in the 8e final after a penalty shoot-out. Despite the defeat, she says she remains grateful and happy. "I think we played really well. I'm happy that we're going out having played like that, having had so much fun with the ball. […] I know it's the end, and it's sad, but playing with this team, for this country, has been an honour. I still remember the chants [in the audience] for equal pay after the final [in Lyon in 2019]. Of course, there were the World Cups played, the championships won, but knowing that we used our talent to do something that changed the world forever, that's what means the most to me." (©, August 6, 2023)


Beyond her skills on the field, Rapinoe is also known for openly championing a number of social causes, including equal pay for men and women, and the rights of the lgbtqia+ community. Her willingness to use her platform to draw attention to these issues has made her one of the most visible and recognisable athlete activists of her generation.


Firmly opposed to racism and the large pay gap between the men's and women's national teams, she protested against American football in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem before matches.

Her protest helped launch a lawsuit, in 2019, by the U.S. Women's National Team against U.S. Soccer, alleging gender discrimination. Rapinoe argued that if the men's and women's teams were paid the same per game, the female players would earn three times as much.


In 2022, U.S. Soccer agreed to pay $24 million to settle the lawsuit, promising equal pay in the future. The U.S. Women's Equal Pay Act was passed on December 21 of that same year. Rapinoe called it a "great victory" in the fight for equal pay.


Furthermore, as the first openly gay woman to pose for Sports Illustrated's swimwear issue, Rapinoe has helped to break down barriers for lgbtqia+ athletes. She is also involved in a number of organisations supporting the rights of this community, notably as spokesperson for Athlete Ally and working with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

She spoke out about her fight for lgbtqia+ rights in an interview for Time in 2022. "I’m gay and my whole life makes sense now. For a long time, I was the only player that was out. And so just being the only spokesperson and making sure I’m setting the right example, saying the right things, whether it comes to gay marriage or difficult and nuanced topics like trans inclusion in sports. Those are the challenges of just continuing to stay educated. I am not just speaking for me, I’m speaking for a lot of people. I don’t want to make anything weird. Nothing goes unsaid. Speak it plainly. And I’m gonna speak it loudly, and I think that that helps other people who maybe don’t have the ability to do that, or who aren’t in a place to do that quite yet."


In the same interview, Rapinoe also gives his unwavering support to the inclusion of transgender people in sport. "People do not know very much about it [other than] the right’s talking points because they’re very loud. They’re very consistent, and they’re relentless. [...] so much of this trans inclusion argument has been put through the extremely tiny lens of elite sports. Like that is not the way that we need to be framing this question. We’re talking about kids. We’re talking about people’s lives. We’re talking about the entire state government coming down on one child in some states, three children in some states. They are committing suicide, because they are being told that they’re gross and different and evil and sinful and they can’t play sports with their friends that they grew up with. Not to mention trying to take away health care. I think it’s monstrous. I would also encourage everyone out there who is afraid someone’s going to have an unfair advantage over their kid to really take a step back and think what are we actually talking about here. We’re talking about people’s lives. I’m sorry, your kid’s high school volleyball team just isn’t that important. It’s not more important than any one kid’s life. [...]So we need to start from inclusion, period."


In 2023, she openly opposed the US Congress' plan to exclude transgender people from women's sports. She also helped launch a campaign called Play As You Are to raise awareness of inclusion in sport, and encouraged athletes to share their own stories and be authentic.


Megan Rapinoe’s full interview for Time, 2022:


© Article by Julie Henry Poutrel for Adama Toulon.