- The moments that are larger than the on-the-field competition
- The father-son bonds forged in sport.
- The tender moments among teammates.
- The heart-stopping speeches from coaches and players.
- The thrilling moments from your childhood that you never forget.
It’s why we watch. It’s why we play.
It’s the stuff that rises up out of sports and settles down into us.
We’ve written previously in this column of the importance of athlete’s using sports as a platform to address larger social issues.
This week’s column comes from US Women’s National Soccer Team star and co-captain, Megan Rapinoe. Aside from her on-the-field greatness, the unapologetic Rapinoe, who is a lesbian, is an outspoken and engaged advocate for LGBTQ+ and human rights causes and issues.
In 2016, she both came under fire and was praised (by different groups of people) for becoming the first soccer player to kneel during the National Anthem, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and for LGBTQ rights. Rapinoe describes herself as “a walking protest.” As she said at the time:
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it.”
More recently – in the press frenzy that surrounds the World Cup, where the US team she leads are the favorites to win it all – Rapinoe was asked if she would visit the White House, if they won. Her response was simple and decisive – and because it used a curse word – attention grabbing: “I’m not going to the fucking White House.”
Her position on the matter should not be all that surprising. She’s more than happy to tell it like it is, and to explain why she has no interest in going to the Trump White House. Indeed, many other sports teams have turned down their White House invitations from President Trump, who Rapinoe calls “sexist,” “misogynistic,” “small-minded,” “racist” and “not a good person.” This includes The NBA’s Golden State Warriors, the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, and the non-white half of MLB’s Boston Red Sox.
As Dave Zirin put so well in his article on the subject for The Nation, “Words have power. Truth has power. Athletes, when they use their platform to speak truth to power, can change the world.” Rapinoe is literally speaking Truth to power. And that is a powerful thing:
“After two years of individual baseball and football players as well as entire NBA teams shunning this president, usually with rarely spoken motivations, Rapinoe made it clear and made in plain. She didn’t talk around the objections so many athletes have with a bigoted president who cages children. She just said it, and let the chips fall.”
“Rapinoe is an openly gay athlete, and Trump and his administration have made it perfectly clear that they do not believe LGBTQ people deserve equal protection or consideration. Why would Rapinoe ever put herself in a situation where she would have to put on a fake smile and be in the same room with the man who chose Mike Pence, who has a long history of working against LGBTQ people, as his vice president? There’s a reason her teammates and a number of celebrities vocalized their support of Rapinoe’s comments.”
Indeed, Rapinoe’s Team USA teammates – at least those have spoken on the matter – have her back. Both Allie Krieger and Alex Morgan supported her and said they wouldn’t visit the White House either.
In regards to the “President’s” tweet today, I know women who you cannot control or grope anger you, but I stand by @mPinoe & will sit this one out as well. I don’t support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable.
— Ali Krieger (@alikrieger) June 26, 2019
World Cup season is a time to marvel at the awesomeness of Megan Rapinoe (and Team USA.)
SPEAK OF MARVELING, HERE IS YOUR JUST-BEFORE-GO-TO-PRESS ON-FIELD UPDATE:
Rapinoe scores early to put the USA Women up 1-0 early on host France)
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) June 28, 2019
She then adds a second goal, to lead the USA over France 2-1.
— Bob Turnipseed (@bob_turnipseed) June 28, 2019
Rapinoe is now the first US woman to score four consecutive goals in the World Cup. She is a Golden God. Or Goddess. Literally, doing it ALL.
But this is your reminder that it’s not just what she does on the soccer pitch.
It is far bigger than even that.
Megan Rapinoe is the most American person I know.
— Yael Averbuch West (@Yael_Averbuch) June 28, 2019
Photo Credit: (Rich Graessle/AP Images)
If you have a moment that you think should be featured in the Heart of Sports, please contact me at [email protected] or @michaelkasdan.