On July 5, 2019, the United States defeated the Netherlands in the Women’s World Cup, earning its second consecutive victory and fourth title. Left wing Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. team’s part-time captain — notable for her sometimes controversial statements and behavior, witticisms and lavender-dyed hair — scored one of the two second-half goals, clinching the team’s win.
During the 2019 World Cup, Rapinoe scored six goals, earning her the Golden Boot award for being the tournament’s top scorer. She was also the recipient of the Golden Ball award, given to the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“I feel this team is in the midst of changing the world around us as we live,” the 34-year old said. “It’s just an incredible feeling. It’s something that’s very special.”
1. Who she is.
Rapinoe began her professional soccer career in 2009, when she was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars in the first season ever of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), the then-highest soccer division in the U.S.
In the quarterfinal match against Brazil during the 2011 Word Cup, Rapinoe, who came on as a substitute, sent a 50-yard cross to Abby Wambach during overtime, leading to Wambach’s record-breaking goal scored in the 122nd minute of the match, the latest in goal scored in a World Cup game to date.
While the Brazil World Cup cross was a defining moment in Rapinoe’s career, it’s one of many for the midfielder and winger. She’s known for her innovative style of playing, which has been showcased in three World Cups, including two in which she helped lead the U.S. team to victory (2015 and 2019), and two Olympic Games. In Rio in 2016, she became the first player ever to score a goal from a corner without an assist at the Olympics, in part leading to the U.S.’s gold medal.
Currently, Rapinoe captains and plays for Seattle Reign FC in the Women’s Soccer League.
2. Her background.
Rapinoe is the youngest of James and Denise Rapinoe’s six children, including a twin sister, Rachael. She began playing soccer at the age of three, reportedly following in the footsteps of her brother, Brian, who was placed in a juvenile detention center when he was 15 and later incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Since then, he has made an effort to stay clean.
Rapinoe and her twin attended the University of Portland on full scholarships, both playing for the Portland Pilots. Rapinoe took the 2004 season off to play in the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship and later earned numerous victories and titles while playing for the Pilots, including NSCAA First Team All-American.
Currently dating Seattle Storm basketball player and fellow Olympian Sue Bird, Rapinoe is an LGBTQ activist. She came out publicly in 2012 in an interview with Out magazine and is an advocate for the Human Rights Campaign, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Athlete Ally and LGBTQ. Rapinoe also advocates for gender pay equality. “What can we do now?” she asked on Good Morning America. “How can FIFA support the federations? How can federations support their players better? How can the leagues support their players better?”
Rapinoe’s hometown of Redding, California, has named September 10th “Megan Rapinoe Day.”
3. Controversy over Rapinoe.
"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," Rapinoe said on Anderson Cooper 360 when Cooper asked her what she would say to President Donald Trump if she had the opportunity. "You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone.”
Rapinoe has categorically stated her opposition to Trump and his policies, through both her words and actions. She was the first female athlete, as well as first white athlete, to take the knee during the national anthem following Colin Kaepernick’s protest. The U.S. Soccer Federation created a policy saying that players must “stand respectfully” during the national anthem before national games in 2017. During the recent World Cup, Rapinoe stood with her hands at her sides.
“I don’t think anybody can deny the horrors of racism and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and what’s happening on the southern border and gay rights and women’s rights,” she said as an explanation for her protest. She also described it as a “good ‘F you’” to Trump.
This and other activism has drawn criticism from people who deem the behavior “un-American.”
“Someone should say something because Rapinoe, as a member of America's team, represents us all,” Peter Roff writes in Newsweek. “She's a symbol of the nation, just not a very positive one….What bothers me most is the way she has consistently shown little respect for the nation she opted to represent as a member of the U.S. team….If she's not proud to be an American, and if she said she is I missed it, she shouldn't have signed up for the team. She's not able to handle the responsibility.”
Despite the backlash against Rapinoe and her sometimes devise remarks and behavior, fans continue to flock to her, with many applauding her using her platform to champion important causes. She also has numerous sponsorship deals, including Nike and Samsung. In fact, many supporters call her an American hero.
Where to find her
Looking for more information and updates on Megan Rapinoe? Here’s where to find her.
Team USA (Olympic Team)