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Megan Rapinoe Calls Out Sports Illustrated’s Lack of Diversity in Sportsperson of the Year Award Speech

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USA Women’s Soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year on Monday, joining the likes of athletes and teams that have put on stunning displays of athleticism and sportsmanship — like the 2018 Golden State Warriors, Lebron James, and Serena Williams.

As one of just four women to win the Sportsperson of the Year award, she wasted no time in putting SI in the hot seat, saying in an acceptance speech, “Is it truth that I’m only the fourth woman deserving of this award? I don’t think so.”

“Is it true so few writers of color deserve to be featured in this publication? No. Is it true so few women’s voices deserve to be heard and deserve to be read in this publication? I don’t think so.”

This isn’t the first time Rapinoe has done something like this. She started making headlines in 2016 when she kneeled during the national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick. When black athletes protest, a common critique is to say they should be grateful for the opportunity to play their sport professionally. While Rapinoe may have received the same criticism, she’s ended up winning awards for her protest, a fact that she’s acutely aware of.

In November of this year, Rapinoe won the Glamour Woman of the Year award and used her speech to call out this double standard. “So while I’m enjoying all of this unprecedented and frankly a little bit uncomfortable attention and personal success, in large part, due to my activism off the field, Colin Kaepernick is still effectively banned,” she said.

She continued to point out that her privilege saved her job while it cost Kap his. Rapinoe named this systematic and racial injustice, stating “I see no clearer example of that system being alive and well than me standing before you right now.”

During an interview about her award for France Football’s second women’s Ballon d’Or, Rapinoe called out male athletes like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for being complacent and silent on issues like racism and sexism in the game, saying, “I want to shout: ‘Cristiano, Lionel, Zlatan, help me!'” Rapinoe continued, “These big stars do not engage in anything when there are so many problems in men’s football.”

She added, “Do they fear losing everything? They believe that, but it is not true. Who will erase Messi or Ronaldo from world football history for a statement against racism or sexism?”

Megan Rapinoe also used her acceptance speech during the FIFA’s Best Player of the Year award to talk about soccer’s blatant racism problem. She noted the courage of players like Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly for the way they dealt with on-field abuse from fans and players, and wondered why only the oppressed were taking action:

“I feel like if we really want to have meaningful change, what I think is most inspiring would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and Koulibaly were as outraged about racism as they were. If everybody else was as outraged about homophobia, as the LGBTQ players, if everybody was as outraged about equal pay, or the lack thereof, or the lack of investment in the women’s game other than just women. That would be the most inspiring thing to me. I feel like that’s my ask of everybody, we have such an incredible opportunity being professional football players”

Rapinoe’s most profound achievement this year has been holding accountable the very ones who have honored her with accolades by utilizing that platform to speak out.

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Kelsey Trainor is a former two sport collegiate athlete, collegiate women's basketball coach and current attorney & producer. Amba Jagnarine is a former college athlete in charge of business development at Abrams Media (Mediaite's parent company). We are passionate about sports and giving women a bigger voice in all aspects of it. Twitter: @ktrain_11 | @AmbaJagnarine