By: Zachary Draves
If there was ever an obvious choice for the title of sportsperson of the year, it would be Megan Rapinoe.
The co-captain of the greatest women’s soccer team in the world not only helped lead the U.S. women to victory in this past summer’s World Cup, but she was rewarded by Sports Illustrated in their latest issue for that coveted title.
She embodies everything that is required for the sportsperson of the year. She excelled in her respective sport and in doing so transcended the game.
In other words, she is more than an athlete.
She has the cultural influence of Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm, mixed with the politics of Billie Jean King and Colin Kaepernick.
She is able to bridge those two worlds together and create a model for others to follow, a sports figure wanting to balance athletic excellence with social consciousness and win while doing it.
That is what she did this summer.
The USWNT steamrolled their way into Paris and never looked back.
They dominated their opponents and captured the hearts and minds of their fellow citizens at home and abroad.
They played with a style that was filled with joy and unabashed confidence that was completely inspiring to watch.
Even when people were complaining about their supposed “arrogance”, the team stood their ground.
Confronting sexism and misogyny right in the face and calling out the double standards that exist
Megan, in particular, was captivating, not only in terms of her superb skills on the pitch but because of her authenticity to stay true to herself.
Simply put, she was unapologetic.
She was unapologetically outspoken.
She was unapologetically brash, as her iconic pose after every goal conveys.
She was unapologetically female.
She was unapologetically gay.
She was unapologetically political.
All of that put together and you get what you see.
She played with pride in her team, her sexuality, her gender, and her country when it’s at its best.
That is to say that she is as American as anybody. She represents the best in America. She is an example of what America can and should be.
She is a living testament to why America needs to embrace its diversity and to live up to its founding ideals of equality, fairness, and justice.
After all, when we create opportunities for all to succeed and shatter the walls of discrimination, America wins.
Isn’t that patriotic?
Megan has been at the forefront of many of the most prominent social issues of the day.
She was the first notable white athlete, male or female, who publicly showed solidarity for Colin Kaepernick by taking a knee during the anthem in protest of racial injustice.
She has been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ rights in sports and elsewhere along with her superstar partner WNBA player Sue Bird, whom herself is a proud champion for fair play.
And let’s not forget, that she along with her team have been leading the way on achieving equal pay.
We must remember that the USWNT has been in an ongoing struggle for equal pay and treatment from the U.S. soccer federation as far back as their last World Cup win in 2015.
They filed suit this past March 8th, International Women’s Day no less, against U.S. soccer for gender discrimination. https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/12/football/us-womens-soccer-megan-rapinoe-alex-morgan-equal-pay-spt-intl/index.html
After their historic victory, there were chants in the stands in Paris of “equal pay” that were heard so loud and clear that the good people of New York City continue it during the victory celebration for the team upon their return home.
Megan has been showered with every accolade that can be offered and this recognition by SI is the culmination.
It is only up from here for her.
Expect to see her in various places in the years to come.
From the pitch to the campaign trail.
From the late-night talk shows to the halls of Congress.
From the magazine covers to the boardroom.
She is a force to be reckoned with, as her trusty sludge hammer shows in SI.
She is a legend on her own and the best is yet to come.