Though she hasn’t played in a soccer game since March, Megan Rapinoe’s star power is plenty big enough for her to make an impact from the sideline. Just in case anyone forgot how big the impact can be when she’s with the U.S. national team, she gave a classic reminder on Tuesday.
Rapinoe is back with the program now as it prepares for a pair of friendlies against Colombia later this month. But none of the questions she took were about those games, set for Jan. 18 and 22.
The questions were about her social justice work and last week’s insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol. And whatever her form will be on the field, she’s still as sharp as ever on camera.
“It’s just striking how horrible it was, and just how insane it was,” Rapinoe said on a Zoom call that attracted nearly 100 journalists from around the world. “The climate in the country being such that we have, you know, our political leaders — our chief political leader — inciting an actual, real-life, murderous and deadly insurrection against his own government, against his own people, against his own party.”
Rapinoe has an ample history of clashing with Trump, most famously during the 2019 World Cup. He tweeted that she should win before talking; she responded not just with words, but by winning the most outstanding player award as the Americans claimed back-to-back titles. She also was the tournament’s top scorer.
But her passion for social justice predates Trump’s election in November 2016. She first took a knee during the playing of the national anthem two months before then, and her activism overall has gone on for far longer. So too has her studying of America’s fraught history with expanding civil rights.
“Unleashing a white supremacist mob is nothing new to America — people of color, black and brown, know that very well,” Rapinoe said. “Hopefully this is the last layer that we needed to rip off, although it’s been abundantly clear for a number of hundreds [of] years what the real issue is. This was about white supremacy and holding up white supremacy, and I hope that we can see this and move forward with justice.”
She took note of a photo that went viral on social media of a participant in the riot who wore a U.S. women’s national team sweatshirt. And she didn’t hold back on that either.
“The U.S. crest is not to be confused with anything that has to do with white supremacy, anything that has to do with the Trump administration, anything that has to do with that divisive culture that we saw,” Rapinoe said. “We want to create, and continue to create, a place that’s inclusive and safe and diverse for our fans to be in, and for our players to play in front of, and for people to watch on TV, and for the media to cover. So don’t bring that [B.S.] here.”
She admitted that it was “very unsettling and scary” to watch “a murderous mob” break through the Capitol’s walls, and the multiple deaths that followed. And she praised “the courage” of lawmakers who returned to the business of certifying Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory within hours of the building being secured.
But there was no praise for the lawmakers who voted against certification, or those who spurred on the rioters.
“The utter bottomless of some of these lawmakers who continue to incite violence and still call for overturning the election, when the mandate’s been given by the United States and by the people of the United States — it’s just absolutely insane, [and] they should be held accountable,” Rapinoe said. “Hopefully the lawmakers will have the courage to do what needs to be done. And everyday citizens as well, we’ll understand that we have a part to play in it, just as everybody else does.”
Though Rapinoe has spent more time recently as a WNBA fan than as a soccer player — including proposing to her longtime girlfriend, the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird — she is not an everyday citizen. Nor are her national team colleagues, who have used their success to elevate their work on anti-racism, gender equality and other social justice initiatives.
“I’ve been just super happy, excited and proud of the way that the team has taken this on, and will continue to have these conversations,” Rapinoe said. “The most encouraging part is that we know that this is something that’s going to be a constant conversation for us, and a constant learning process, and areas where we can grow and use our platform in the most effective way. We are in an incredibly unique situation to be able to represent the United States of America via our sport, and have such a cross section of culture and race and sexuality and personalities on this team.”