There is no question that Megan Rapinoe is the breakout star from the 2019 Women’s World Cup. And just like nearly everything else that gets media attention these days, she has enjoyed — and endured — celebration and animus from both sides of the political spectrum.
Rapinoe’s popularity and notoriety are emblematic of our divided nation. Progressives love her candid — and profane — reaction to a potential visit to the White House, while conservatives have, not entirely unfairly, compared her National Anthem protest to another right-wing villain, Colin Kaepernick.
During Wednesday’s Canyon of Heroes victory celebration, the World Cup Golden Boot winner was given the platform to speak her mind in the sweetest spot possible: the last speech of the event. She had the opportunity to literally make any point she could, which is why her speech was so wonderful and even, hopefully, transcendent.
Rapinoe apologized for some (not all) of the things she said in a heartfelt call for unity that set her further apart from nearly every other public figure that has been pulled into the political arena. Rapinoe said:
“This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We’ve got to listen more and talk less. We’ve got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here, every single person who is not here, every single person who doesn’t want to be here, every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree, it’s our responsibility to make this world a better place.”
Rapinoe’s high road did not end criticism from entirely predictable sources whose wallets benefit more from “us vs. them” division. Take for example noted political troll Rush Limbaugh, who either entirely ignored Rapinoe’s speech, or decided to go with a script written before she delivered it.
‘You know what I think this babe may be angling for?” Limbaugh asked. “Kaepernick! She wants a Kaepernick deal with Nike! Damn straight! She’s angling for a Kaepernick. She’s showing Nike she can be just as anti-American as Kaepernick. ‘Give me a chance. Let me do the LGBTQ angle of Kaepernick.’”
That’s one take, though if that were the case, she would have struck a different note in this highly visible moment. In fact, she hit the opposite tone in her appeal to America’s better angels. But that’s not the narrative that Limbaugh’s listeners tune in to hear.
Look, people can disagree with Rapinoe’s politics. This is not a strict defense of her beliefs or positions on whatever issues that comprise cable news rundowns. Frankly, accomplished athletes are not where I look for policy statements, world champion or not. This is more in praise of Rapinoe’s refreshing moment that deserves more attention than it initially received, lost in a sea of celebration.
Rapinoe doesn’t just understand the responsibility of the sudden influence that has been foisted upon her, she relishes it. And instead of scoring points, or making more divisive comments (that would likely help her bank account), she appealed for more love, less hate.
And that is perhaps more deserving of plaudits than her six goals leading the United States to World Cup victory.
Well done, Megan.
Watch Rapinoe’s speech above, via CNN.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.