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Megan Rapinoe on preserving politics in sport

Megan Rapinoe and the US women's national team won a monumental World Cup victory this summer – the squad has never been seriously threatened. But what happened outside the field was perhaps even more important. Rapinoe, one of the captains, and her teammates have mastered the tournament while they sued their country's football association for sex discrimination. When they accepted President Trump as a symbolic opponent, after it became known that Rapinoe refused to visit the White House before the Games began in colorful language, the team was to win (in response, President Trump stepped up the pressure by tweeting substantially or keeping quiet ); and as they battle against perhaps the strongest group of women's teams ever assembled. Rapinoe himself was awarded with the Golden Boot of the tournament as the best scorer and the Golden Ball as the best player. "For girls, it's amazing to see how different types of women come to power," says Rapinoe, who recently signed a book deal with Penguin. "I feel like I came from outside because I'm an athlete." She adds with a grin, "And now people say, 'Oh, man, she's in here and we can not get her out.' 39; " 1

9659002] How much do you think that being who you are – an unabashedly gay woman – has helped the team feel like lightning during the World Cup? If it had been another player who had rejected the White House, the story could have been very different. I can not imagine that for the angry people my existence as a pink-haired, not excusing gay lesbian was good. They probably said, "Oh, you are so in our face! "Instead of being a normal white girl, I have a completely different view of things and it is the basis for all the activism I do. I do not feel I've had a lot of homophobia or people hanging out the window calling me gays or whatever, but being gay has shaped my way of life. [1965] 9002] Tell me more about this activism. People know you and gender equality, and maybe they know your anthem protests, but what else are you actually fighting for? In this incredible moment that I have, I want to use this platform to unite people. That does not mean everyone is going to the left, but I want to get everyone talking, and the basis for that is equality. My big, I do not know, "message" at the moment is that every person has the responsibility to be part of this society and make it a better place for everyone in whatever capacity they can. And I'm just trying to do my best to inspire people to feel confident that they are able to actively participate in this country, in their community, in their family. Hard talks are the only way to move forward.

When it emerged that the talks about the World Cup were not just about football or gender equality, but also about the added political element of your conflict with the president, were you afraid to be in focus? I made the choice a long time ago to participate in the political discourse. 1 Obviously, tweets of the President 2 increased everything by a million, but I feel very good when I speak. I do not think it was a conscious decision to get involved or Not. I understood the severity of the incident and found that it had to be reconciled with the performance and to make sure that the team was good and not distracted.

Did the internal dynamics of the team during the controversy require management on your part? out? I do not think anyone meant, "I'm going to the White House."

That actually surprises me. From a purely statistical point of view, one would think that there is a teammate who could visit President Trump in the White House. I have not done the appeal yet, but I think nobody cares. It was almost a funny relief because it was so ridiculous that the President tweeted about me. Everyone said, "Are you alright?" When they saw that I was comfortable with it, they said, "That's crazy." And our performances underpinned everything. The team dominated. We always have a lot of pressure and a lot is said about us, good or bad or different. So honestly, the controversy was more like, "That's wild."

But when the president tweeted – "Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla. Win it. "I know, dude. Thanks, Trump. Thanks for the support.

Did you feel any pressure in your comments to win? Not really. I do not think there could be more pressure. The reasons we want to win are so deep and dynamic and complex. I mean, we sued the association before we went to the World Cup. We realize how important winning is. We could not have won and come back and still helped to improve the game, but we understand that everything will change if we win. That was the more unifying pressure.

How much did you know, apart from the president, from your other critics? I was never a person who commented on my mentions or read comments. I think the experience I had after kneeling during the anthem was crucial. That was the most solid moment in my life that I thought I know is very controversial. I understand why people are upset and I'll keep talking about it. People said the craziest things. I do not know how serious the threats were, but there were alleged threats. In fact, I felt that the responses I received were the perfect response to the protest because people are not upset that I'm talking about police brutality, racial injustice or the criminal justice system. They were upset about all these other things: it's disrespectful. This is not a suitable place to protest. You are not with the veterans. You are not with the police. So it became very clear that this conversation had to take place.

I saw you on Anderson Cooper's show and you said you only wanted to talk to politicians who "believe in the same things that we believe in" People have the responsibility to at least try to talk to them who disagree with them. Is not that part of the way changes take place? Many people have said, "Why do not you do something? A request from the president for him to sit down and talk to you when he goes to the White House? "But I will not be naive and think that I will sit down with Trump and he will change his mind. There are children locked up at the border and dying, and that does not scare him. Why should I worry him then?

Do you understand that sport should be a non-political oasis? I do not understand this argument at all. They want us to be role models for your children. You want us to support your products. They lead us around. It's like we're not just here to sit in the glass cabinet so you can look at them. It will not continue like this. Yes, I totally disagree with this concept [expletive].

I'm curious: where did the weapon-wide goal celebration that you made during the World Cup? It was probably born from a little arrogance. Are not you entertained? What more do you want? And it was a kind of saying to Trump – but more to critics in general – that you will not steal our pleasure as a team, like the L.G.B.T.Q. Community, like America. It was like a [expletive] you, but nice.

I interpreted it as meaning something like "That's me, bring it here". Yes. What is the term? Will you give me all the smoke? Is that what the children say? For example, "I am here, ready to strike back."

Have you always been so confident? I started like this. Then in middle school and high school it was really embarrassing. Gender roles started to be one thing, and I did not know that I was gay, frankly, until I was in college. 3 Until then, I thought, Everything feels weird. I think being gay is like never being normal, so you have no rules, and if you do not have to follow any rules, all bets are void. Much of my confidence stems from the fact that I feel no social pressure to be anything other than what I want to be. My natural inclination is to have faith, but for sure, when I found out I was gay, I thought, oh god! In retrospect, it is embarrassing, because duh.

What did college allow you to realize that you are gay? Redding, California 4 where I grew up is racially, sexually and politically quite homogeneous. It was all the same somehow. I did not have a repressive or oppressive childhood in any way, it just never said "gay". When I arrived at college and these things were named and there were other gay people, I was forced to think for myself. It was, oh, well, that's one thing, and that's one thing, and that's why people are democrats, and that's what liberal means, you know? It's like I knew things before, but they were never named.

It feels to me as if after each Women's World Cup since 1999, a wave of enthusiasm for the team and discussion of a broader change has taken place for them, women's sports, and then four years later we have many of the same discussions. What needs to be done differently this time to sustain progress? We have to be much stronger. We are now so much better organized as a player organization to fight the association. 5 But it's difficult. They basically have 23 players inside and outside the national team. How do you keep this pressure on the bandage? It's exhausting, but we just have to be tougher. We now recognize our value and have not known exactly how high our market value is in the past. If we get into the next round of collective bargaining, which I believe will take place in two years, and we do not get what we want, we need to be more serious than before and not content with crap.

Have you ever been satisfied with crap? I think we were satisfied with less than we are worth. We have a membership we need to deal with and we need to convince ourselves that strike or non-play or suspension would be an option. You have players who are financially in a different position than Alex Morgan or myself or Carli Lloyd. The other problem is that basically there are 23 women in the country earning a living from football, and the thought of losing is scary. That's the hard part: try to involve everyone, and force the association to give us what we're worth.

For people who may not have followed their team's lawsuit against the US Football Association, can you explain some of them? What changes do you want to see in addition to gender pay? The lawsuit covers a lot. In a broader sense, it is about the same investments and the same care of both men and women. Whether youth team programs, marketing, the branding of the team, how they sell tickets, what they spend on advertising money, what they pay for on each page, what they spend on support staff, what they spend on coaching, what the travel budget is – that's all. The compensation is, so to speak, the last big part. With everything the same, it is difficult to talk about how much each team is worth, as the value and potential of each team is not achieved. At least not with us. I'm not sure what they're doing on the men's side, but I suspect they're making more money as well. We are both cash cows for the association and they certainly deserve a lot of money. I'm not sure if we share that.

Why has women's football in the US struggled to get to a healthier place? I do not know why there is no more investment. 6 The national team is extremely popular, making huge amounts of money and growing exponentially. Do you have any idea other than sexism, why? People are not investing heavily in women's sports right now. Probably 75 percent of the people who participate in Major League Soccer games – are they there because they are hardcore football fans or because it's a cool experience? The M.L.S. Marketing is great, branding is great and it's a fun atmosphere to be a part of it. I feel like women might have the same thing, but for some reason people do not invest in the same thing.

Is the answer just sexism? Unless I do not think about something. I do not think it's a super complex problem. There is a lot of money invested in male sports everywhere, so sexism remains until someone tells me something that makes more sense.

[Read more about the team’s fight for equal pay.]

Do you think women's national football teams could be better run? The problem with the owner groups is that they are run by millionaires. This is great for your normal life, but you can not just be a millionaire and lead a team properly. So I do not think they are doing great because they can not. They do not have the resources. People always ask, "What do you think the League needs?" What do you mean, what does she need? Do we need to get out more in the community? No. Do we have to tweet more about it? No, it drives me crazy when people ask, "What do we need?" One billion dollars! That's how we can get things right. Not like idiots, that's what we ultimately do.

At this point in your playing career you are closer to the end than to the beginning. The end looks just fine.

Is that it? After the next summer, it's a good time to look at things and see what opportunities there are. I still like to play. That's never the problem. But I'm getting older. I am certainly good enough, but we will see if I can stay healthy and continue with the younger children.

Have you thought about how you could retain your influence when you're done with the game? That's the million dollar question. Hopefully the more than a million dollar expensive question. What does it look like? How do I pack into something I want to do? Could I have a TV program? Could be. Will I do that? I do not know. Probably not.

I'll bet that many people who started paying attention to you last month did not know there were recent questions about whether you had a future with the national team. What has changed for you as player and person to get from there to here? A little bit. As an athlete, you can do everything physically until you're in your late 20s. When you turn 30, you develop your style of play and how you physically take care of yourself, or you just grow old and retire. I feel incredibly happy that I met my friend Sue 7 at that time. It was 2016 after the Olympics. I made it back to the Olympics, but probably should not have been on the list. I was not ready I just got off this ACL injury, I was 31, I was clearly not what I was before. And when she met Sue, she had knee injuries and changed her diet, her workouts, and she had an incredibly long career behind her. I purposely changed that and focused more on rest and relaxation and taking care of myself to get super fit. So meeting Sue was in many ways a coincidence for me.

How did you and Sue get along? At the Olympic Games in Brazil, our team moved out early, so most of the team went home, but I thought [expletive] I've never been to Rio. So I hung out there and went to some basketball games and then to the afterparty of the team and met Sue. It was like we both live in Seattle, we should meet. My manager had assigned me to find someone for Sue in Seattle. I said, "I'm in it." Then, a week later, I had someone for Sue: hand up Emoji. We are together since then.

She and Sue are among a handful of outstanding female athletes traveling in public. In the four major American professional sports leagues, there are no men in this position. What could be responsible and what could cause things to open up? I think that homophobia is responsible for this in sports, but it is also more than a homophobic culture. For these guys, life-changing generational wealth is at stake. I think they are scared to lose this. You've made it this far, no one in your family has ever done such a thing, you and your family have the opportunity to live a completely different life for years, and you do not want to risk it. But obviously, there must be so many gay male athletes, and many of them are probably an open secret. However, it does seem crazy that never before has a lead actor been out of the market.

What can you tell me about your World Cup success? Well, I live my best life in celebration mode. My performance at the World Cup was good, but I've been thinking all the time, just wait until I get to the festivities. I love to party. We were together for 50 days. Being a team that is expected to win all the time – it's exciting when you do it, but it's also a massive relief, because it would be a big disappointment if you did not do it. Then you win in such a spectacular way! You can enjoy it for days. You can do whatever you want. That's what I said to the girls, especially in the first few days after winning: "This is the time when nobody cares what you do, you can ask for anything, you can do anything, live out, you will have that time Never again. "It's so special and crazy and so much fun.

So how did you do it? Well, I have [expletive] mothered the crowd in New York City Hall on TV. I have lit a speech, it is said. I mean, spray all New Yorkers with champagne and drink champagne wherever we want. However, I do not believe that I asked for anything. I try not to be a diva. I have a gift for myself that I have been talking about for two years. It's a rolex. It is very expensive. So we will see. I'm trying to think of something else that I asked for. Oh, I asked for private jets.

Is that true? Yes. I do not get many. It turns out that they are very expensive. I want to travel so bad private jets. I took one earlier this year. Alex Morgan and I had an event in Paris for Nike and then we had a photo shoot in St. Lucia for the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. The only way to make it work was by plane from Nike to Paris to St. Lucia. It was like the Jets Ferrari. The thing was so powerful. It ruined me forever.

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