The Dangerous Face of the Future: Megan Rapinoe: ‘Maybe men should just take a few hundred years off’

The US midfielder talks about why women are at the forefront of fighting injustices and whether she feared for her football career after taking a knee during the national anthem

Megan Rapinoe says: ‘It’s not really an issue of whether police brutality exists or not, or whether racism still an issue or not, it very much is.’
 Megan Rapinoe says: ‘It’s not really an issue of whether police brutality exists or not or whether racism is still an issue or not. It very much is.’ Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP

“As I’ve grown older I’ve really got to understand how powerful one voice can be, my voice can be, or the team’s voice can be. So to hold that back or not to use that just seems selfish in a way.”

If that is the case, Megan Rapinoe is anything but selfish. A World Cup winner and Olympic champion with the US women’s national team, Rapinoe could easily be satisfied with her lot. But just enjoying the spoils of her success is not enough.

“I think I want the same for myself,” says the 33-year-old, who 11 days later knelt again before USA played Thailand. “Being a white, female, gay athlete. Obviously not everybody is that but it doesn’t mean I don’t want the support for everyone in all of the things I’m fighting for.

“We understand that athletes are idolised and glorified in our culture and it was about using that platform to just support and give support to what he was saying. It became a very racialised issue, a black versus white thing, but it’s not.

“We all should be supporting what he’s saying. The statistics don’t lie – people of colour in prison, people of colour that are disproportionately arrested, monitored by police, police brutality against people of colour.

“It’s not really an issue of whether police brutality exists or not, or whether racism is still an issue or not. It very much is and I think it’s foolish to say it’s not.

“The more we reckon with that quickly, recognise that these things are happening and believe the people that are standing up and telling their stories, then the quicker we can find solutions and start to make progress in breaking down those barriers that are so harmful to so many people.”

Did she ever fear for her career? Kaepernick has not thrown a football professionally since his release by the 49ers and has a case pending alleging NFL bosses have colluded to keep him out of the game for his stance. “Yeah, I mean as soon as I kneeled they made a rule that you had to stand,” says the creative midfielder nicknamed Rapinho or Rapinodinho.

“I don’t know what would have happened if I had continued to kneel, maybe the same thing that happened to Colin. I kind of feel like that’s sort of what they were after. They made it very clear that they were not going to respect my free speech or my decision to peacefully protest in that way and made it very clear that it was unacceptable and that I should be privileged or feel privileged to play for the country. I personally thought it was a very patriotic thing that Colin started.”

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