6 of Megan Rapinoe’s best speeches
There was a collective sigh of sadness in women’s football in July when Megan Rapinoe announced she would be retiring this year. The most accomplished player of her generation, Rapinoe helped lead the US national team to win the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019, as well as securing the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
She is just as well known off the pitch for her social activism, speaking passionately in favour of gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights and racial justice. Here we look back at some of her greatest speeches.
1. On taking the knee during the national anthem at an international match in solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick, 2016
“It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now. I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it.”
2. In an interview with the Guardian, 2017
“The more I’ve been able to learn about gay rights and equal pay and gender equity and racial inequality, the more that it all intersects. You can’t really pick it apart. It’s all intertwined. God forbid you be a gay woman and a person of color in this country, because you’d be really f****d.
“As I got more into gay rights, I got more into equal pay and you just see that it’s all connected. You can’t really speak out on one thing and not another without it not being the full picture. We need to talk about a larger conversation in this country about equality in general and respect – especially with the recent election and subsequent narrative that’s coming from the White House right now.”
3. After being announced as The Best FIFA Women’s Player at the FIFA Football Awards in Milan, 2019
“We have a unique opportunity in football different to any other sport in the world, to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for the better. I feel like if we really want to have meaningful change, what I think is most inspiring would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and [Souleymane] Coulibaly were as outraged about racism as they were. If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ players, everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack thereof or the lack of investment in the women’s game other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing.
“We have such an incredible opportunity being a platform for other people. Just do something, do anything. We have incredible power in this room.”
4. At the ticker tape parade for the US Women’s World Cup team, New York City, 2019
“This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We got to listen more, and talk less. We got to know this is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here. Every single person who is not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place. I think this team does an incredible job of taking that on our shoulders and understanding the position that we have and the platform we have within this world.
“Yes we play sports. Yes we play soccer. Yes we’re female athletes but we’re so much more than that. You’re so much more than that. You’re more than a fan. You’re more than someone who just supports sport. You’re more than someone who tunes in every four years. You’re someone who walks these streets every single day. You interact with your community every single day. How do you make your community better? How do you make the people around you better? Your family? Your closest friends? The 10 closest people to you? The 20 closest people to you? The 100 closest people to you? It’s every single person’s responsibility.”
5. On the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v Wade, 2022
“The makeup of the court is ill-equipped to handle this kind of decision. Frankly, a majority male court making decisions about my body or any other woman’s body is completely misguided and wildly out of touch with the desires of the country, the will of the country and the will of the people. And I think they are acting incredibly irresponsibly and inappropriately.
“I absolutely think gay rights are under attack. I absolutely think we will see legislation pop up state by state by state that will eventually come to this radical court. I have zero faith that my rights will be upheld by the court. I have faith in our country and I have faith in people and I have faith in the voters. And if you ever needed a f*****g motivation to vote, get involved. Quite literally people’s lives depend on it. Like actual lives, we’re talking life and death, and also, you know, your life in terms of what does it mean to even be alive if you can’t be your full self, like what the f*** is the point?”
6. Dedicating her TIME ‘Woman of the Year’ honour to the transgender community, 2023
“I want to not only dedicate this, but thank the trans community and just say that I am only here because of them. And I think we all know what’s going on with the attempted genocide and erasure of trans people in our country. And globally, but particularly in our country.
“We need to look at it a little bit differently, and just look at what trans people have given us, an opportunity to live a whole life and to be a whole person, whatever that may mean to you.
“They offer us a full view of what it means to be a human in the world, particularly for the women in this room. Especially listening to you Angela [actress Angela Bassett]. How much of yourself you’ve been asked to leave behind, been asked to shrink, been asked to soften, been asked to just completely disappear. So you could just be this tiny version of yourself and we’ll accept you.
“That to me, is what trans people have given us, the opportunity to be these whole @ss crazy human beings that we are, that everybody is in this room. That’s a great gift. That’s something that I’m thankful for.”
Quotes have been edited for clarity.