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 her role in 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 members of the media as the best player in the women’s 2019 FIFA World Cup tournament with the Golden Ball award, and 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 during the playing of 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 members of the U.S. men’s national team. 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 for behind the U.S. men’s team. To add insult to injury, the men’s team has not realized nearly the success of the women’s team. 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’s so appealing to so many; it’s her confident celebration of all that 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 really unsure about. I feel sure about everything I do say so [that] I feel confident and comfortable with 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, and athlete, a lesbian. In a world that has long encouraged that women demur and celebrate quietly, she grabs the mic and belts out a song. She spreads her arms wide and welcomes the adulation 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. 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 for 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 also 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 been an inspiration to millions around the world, and especially to one particular man San Diego’s Male Community Reentry Program. He’s spent the better part of his life in prison for drug and gang related offenses.
It was Brian who introduced young Megan to the sport when they were kids. Their paths diverged when Brian was a teen and got mixed up in drugs. His antics eventually landed him in jail, where he sharp racial divisions pushed him towards white supremacist gangs for survival.
After years of scrapes with the law and stints in various institutions, it was watching his little sister’s success that has given Brian hope and purpose.
From inside prison, he watched Megan use her platform to speak up fearlessly. 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, and perhaps even mentor him.
If I ever get the chance to interview Rapinoe, what should I ask?