In the days since a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, there has been a sentiment repeated by lawmakers, political pundits, and even President-elect Joe Biden: this is not who we are as a nation.
U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) star Megan Rapinoe feels differently.
“This is America. Make no mistake about it, we showed our true colors,” the two-time World Cup champion told reporters on Tuesday. “The reason why we are here is because we never actually had a reckoning of what our country really is… this was about white supremacy and holding up white supremacy and I hope that we can see this and move forward with justice.”
Rapinoe added: “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… To see where we’ve come in these four years has been devastating.”
Speaking up against racial and social injustice is nothing new to Rapinoe. Neither is the criticism that often accompanies it.
Ahead of an NWSL game on September 4, 2016, Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem, a nod to Colin Kaepernick‘s protest against racism and police brutality. When she continued to kneel at games, U.S. Soccer implemented a policy requiring its players to “stand respectfully” during the playing of the national anthem. The controversial policy was ultimately rescinded last June, with Rapinoe receiving a personal apology from U.S. Soccer’s new president.
While competing at the 2019 World Cup, Rapinoe made headlines after saying she wouldn’t be going to “the f—ing White House” if the team won, a remark that President Trump responded to in a series of tweets, saying, in part: “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS!”
Trump’s tweets did not age well. Rapinoe not only helped the U.S. win a fourth World Cup title, but she was also the recipient of the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards (given to the top scorer and tournament’s best player, respectively). (She also, of course, still has control of her own Twitter account.)
Some of Rapinoe’s activism has even targeted her federation: In 2019, Rapinoe was one of 28 players who filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. At the 2020 SheBelieves Cup last March, in response to a U.S. Soccer court filing that claimed female players had less “skill” and “responsibility” than their male counterparts, Rapinoe and her teammates turned their warm-up jerseys inside out, hiding the name of the federation on the crest.
This week marks Rapinoe’s first time training with the USWNT since that 2020 SheBelieves Cup. The 35-year-old didn’t participate in the USWNT camps held in October and November, in addition to opting out of both NWSL tournaments last year.
While Rapinoe pointed to COVID concerns and lack of training for her 2020 hiatus, she also said she’s been encouraged by changes made by U.S. Soccer in recent months. “I feel like we’ve come a long way from [turning the crest inside-out],” she explained.
Rapinoe also choked up while recounting the increased activism she’s seen in her own teammates.
“I have a huge amount of pride and respect for people going through their own journey… and feeling more comfortable speaking out about things,” she said. “My fellow white teammates, it is, in fact, our responsibility to stand in unity with our black teammates.”