Megan Rapinoe and the USWNT Are the Heroes America Needed
Donald Trump tweeted that Megan Rapinoe “should WIN first before she talks!” Well, Megan Rapinoe won. And now she’s talking (not that the World Cup MVP, blessedly, ever stopped). In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Rapinoe was asked what she would say to Trump if she could speak to him directly. Rapinoe turned to the camera and said, “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me. You’re excluding people that look like me. You’re excluding people of color. You’re excluding… Americans that maybe support you.”
She was also asked about whether or not a visit to the White House would be in her future. Rapinoe, who has already accepted an invitation from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said,
I would not go, and every teammate that I’ve talked to explicitly about it would not go. I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked so hard to build, and the things that we fight for, and the way that we live our life—I don’t think that we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration.
She added that “there are so many other people that I would rather talk to and have meaningful conversations that could really affect change in Washington than going to the White House.”
Rapinoe and her teammates, more than any group of athletes in recent memory, want to leverage their platform, built with their own unbridled confidence and grit, to make change in the world of soccer and beyond.
“This is such a special moment for us,” she said. “And to be able to sort of leverage this moment and talk about the things that we want to talk about and to celebrate like this with the leaders of our country is an incredible moment. So yes to AOC, yes to Nancy Pelosi, yes to the bipartisan Congress, yes to Chuck Schumer—yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real substantive conversation.”
Rapinoe, truly making the rounds, migrated from CNN to MSNBC to speak with Rachel Maddow. She spoke about the issue of equal pay saying, “If you’re not down with equal pay at this point…you’re so far out of reality and the conversation that we can’t even go there. I think it’s time to go to the next phase.”
The support for equal pay has moved from the cause of the USWNT and their allies to a state of conventional wisdom. This was seen in stark relief on Tuesday when right-wing Democratic Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin—of all people!—introduced a a bill to Congress that blocks federal funding for the 2026 World Cup, which the US is co-hosting with Canada and Mexico, unless pay equity is achieved.
“The clear unequitable [sic] pay between the U.S. men and women’s soccer teams is unacceptable and I’m glad the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team latest victory is causing public outcry,” Manchin said in a statement. “I’m encouraging everyone to call their Senator and Representatives to help us get this bill passed and finally pay the equitable pay they deserve.”
The call for equal pay, amplified by Rapinoe and her teammates, is backed by stubborn statistics. Nike announced this week that the U.S. women’s team home jersey has become the No. 1 soccer jersey—male or female—ever sold on the company’s website over the course of one season. The Wall Street Journal also reported that the women have garnered more revenue than the men since their World Cup triumph in 2015.
This is a team that has triumphed politically while also projecting a hard partying, unapologetic collective joy. It is why the USWNT—as I wrote earlier this week—has become more than a team. They are a social movement that happens to play soccer.
The scolds on Fox News—in constant search for fake outrage—were aghast by their unladylike behavior after winning the World Cup. The rest of the country swooned. They swooned because this team lives the words of Shirley Chisholm. They are truly unbought and unbossed.
As Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post put it, “FIFA and U.S. Soccer may pay this team, but they do not run it or rule it. They never have and never will. It is the first truly woman-owned franchise in sports history.”
A social movement that happens to play soccer. This is why as the team was feted on Wednesday at a victory parade in New York City at the Canyon of Heroes, the chants were less “USA” than “Equal Pay”; the handmade signs less about idolatry than identification with the struggle. Donald Trump said “win before you talk.” They won. And in the process, made him silent. But as Megan Rapinoe’s hero Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.” The women are coming to Washington and bypassing the White House. It couldn’t be more perfect.