Megan Rapinoe has no problem speaking truth to power.
She came out as gay on the eve of the 2012 Olympic Games, and then helped the U.S. women’s team win its most recent gold medal. Next, she took a knee on the sidelines before a national team game in support of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of racism and police brutality, and she has used her public platform to push for marriage equality and LGBTQ rights.
Last year, she crossed tweets with President Trump while doubling down on a years-long campaign for equality for women’s soccer. Then she went out and led the U.S. to its second straight World Cup victory before being chosen as FIFA’s women’s world player of the year.
All that placed her under a red-hot spotlight that would have burned many. Rapinoe welcomed the heat.
“I was made for this,” she said, a bright, mischievous smile creasing her face.
Some of her activism is not as well known. Quietly, away from cameras and microphones, she has donated part of her salary to soccer-centered charities around the world, partnering with the Boys and Girls Club. In 2018, she raised more than $150,000 for victims of a wildfire near her parents’ Northern California home, even though her sexual orientation and politics have made her an outcast in the neighborhood.
She says she has been inspired by Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Briana Scurry, women’s national team players who came before her and who were active in important causes.
Rapinoe, 34, believes that everyone has a responsibility to make the world a better place, and when you’re among the most talented and famous athletes in the world, that responsibility is even greater — something she reminded her peers of during a stirring speech after accepting one of her world player-of-the-year awards last fall.
“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 better,” she says. “That’s my charge to everyone.”