I often ask my guests what they would like to be remembered for. For soccer sensation and activist Megan Rapinoe, the list is already long.
She’ll be remembered for leading the US women’s national soccer team to two FIFA World Cup victories and one Olympic gold medal.
She’ll be remembered as one of the dominant players of her time. This week, she was recognized by FIFA leaders and media members as the best player in the women’s 2019 FIFA World Cup tournament with the Golden Ball award.
She also snagged the Golden Boot award as the highest-scoring player in the tournament.
She’ll also be remembered as one of the first sports figures outside of football to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and kneel in protest while playing the national anthem.
She’ll be remembered as an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ causes and the first out lesbian to pose for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
All of this and more, and she’s only in her mid-thirties. The list will surely grow longer.
It takes moxie to take on the world and win, and Megan Rapinoe has it. Here’s how:
People with moxie stand up for themselves.
A lot was riding on last Sunday’s epic World Cup win for the American team. In the run-up to the match, many saw the game as one more potential proof point in the team’s argument that they deserve to be paid as much as the U.S. men’s national team members. Rapinoe is one of 28 players on the team that filed a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, alleging pay discrimination.
Despite dominating the sport – they’ve won the World Cup four times since it was founded in 1991, more than any other team – the pay for the U.S. women’s team lags far behind the U.S. men’s team. To add insult to injury, the men’s team has not realized nearly the women’s team’s success. They failed to even qualify for the men’s tournament last year.
Rapinoe has been at the forefront of the discussion, and her outspokenness has won her a fair share of critics, but it’s also won her respect.
It’s not Rapinoe’s advocacy for herself as a woman that appeals to so many; it’s her confident celebration of all she is and represents. There’s an authenticity to Rapinoe and an absence of artifice.
“I say what I feel. I don’t ever say anything I’m unsure about. I feel sure about everything I say so [that] I feel confident and comfortable dealing with it if it comes up later or comes around again, she said in a recent interview.
She is proud to be a woman, an athlete, and a lesbian. Yet, in a world that has long encouraged women to hesitate and celebrate quietly, she grabs the mic and belts out a song. She spreads her arms wide and welcomes the adoration of fans after a victory. Her celebration somehow doesn’t seem arrogant but rather seems full of joy.
It takes moxie to believe you deserve to be welcomed, respected, and celebrated, and Megan has it.
People with moxie stand up – or kneel – for others.
It’s not entirely unexpected that Rapinoe would advocate for women or LGBTQ folks since she is both. But lends her voice and her platform wherever she perceives injustice.
She made headlines when she quietly knelt in protest during the pre-game playing of the national anthem. She took a knee to show her support for Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players protesting what they see as unfair treatment of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement. However, she continues to protest in keeping with league rules by standing quietly.
According to Rapinoe, her protest is borne out of her love for America and its founding ideals.
“…I stand for honesty and truth and for wanting to have the conversation and for looking at the country honestly and saying, ‘yes, we are a great country, and there are so many things that are amazing, and I feel very fortunate to be in this country,'” she said in a recent interview. “…But that doesn’t mean we can’t get better. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always strive to be better.”
It’s one thing to be a member of a marginalized group and advocate for yourself; it takes moxie to join a fight that isn’t even yours and advocate just as passionately.
People with moxie inspire others.
Rapinoe’s moxie has inspired millions worldwide, especially one particular man, San Diego’s Male Community Reentry Program. He’s spent most of his life in prison for drug and gang-related offenses.
That man is Rapinoe’s older brother, Brian.
Brian introduced young Megan to the sport when they were kids. But, unfortunately, their paths diverged when Brian was a teen and got mixed up in drugs. His antics eventually landed him in jail, where sharp racial divisions pushed him towards white supremacist gangs for survival.
After years of scrapes with the law and stints in various institutions, watching his little sister’s success has given Brian hope and purpose.
From inside prison, he watched Megan use her platform to speak up fearlessly. Yet, when he looked at himself, he was disappointed.
He decided to focus on getting clean and getting rehabilitated so that when he’s released, he won’t be back in prison again.
It’s tough to inspire those closest to you. They know your flaws and weaknesses. But Rapinoe has the moxie to inspire her big brother and one-time mentor, perhaps even mentor him.
If I ever get the chance to interview Rapinoe, what should I ask?