In the world of sports, it is exceedingly rare for an athlete to leave behind a legacy as extraordinary as Megan Rapinoe’s. As she prepares to play her final game for the US Women’s National Team, let’s take a closer look at the remarkable journey of this iconic athlete and activist.
Megan Rapinoe’s Multifaceted Legacy:
Megan Rapinoe’s legacy extends far beyond her impressive athletic achievements. Over her international career, she has not only secured two World Cup titles and an Olympic gold medal but has also become an influential campaigner, a generous philanthropist, a trailblazing fashion icon, and a tireless advocate for equal rights across society.
Celebrating a Champion:
On Sunday, fans will gather to celebrate Rapinoe’s illustrious career as she takes the field one last time for the US Women’s National Team. The game against South Africa in Chicago promises to be a fitting tribute to this soccer legend.
A Career in Numbers:
Rapinoe’s international career spanned 203 appearances for her country. Since her debut in 2006, she netted an impressive 63 goals and contributed 73 assists, ranking among the top-10 in both categories in US women’s team history. Along the way, she achieved two World Cup triumphs and claimed Olympic gold.
The Brightest Star:
In 2019, Rapinoe’s star shone its brightest. After leading her team to World Cup victory, she received the Ballon d’Or Féminin and FIFA’s The Best award, cementing her status as the world’s premier women’s player at the time. This recognition mirrored her performances on the field, characterized by class and confidence.
One iconic photograph from 2019 captured Rapinoe’s triumphant spirit. After scoring two goals against host France in the World Cup quarterfinals, she celebrated with arms outstretched, an image that resonated with supporters and rankled critics alike.
Advocate for Change:
Beyond the soccer pitch, Rapinoe has consistently championed important causes, including racial equality, women’s rights, pay parity, and LGBTQ+ issues. Her activism often drew criticism, but it never deterred her. Notably, she knelt during the national anthem in 2016 in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice.
Recognition and Honor:
In 2022, Rapinoe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden for her advocacy work. This esteemed honor acknowledged her relentless commitment to fighting for the freedoms of all people.
Equal Pay Advocate:
Rapinoe played a pivotal role in her national team’s fight for equal pay. After a three-year legal battle, an agreement was reached in 2022, ensuring equal pay for the women’s and men’s national teams in all competitions, including the World Cup.
Retirement and World Cup Heartbreak:
At the age of 38, Rapinoe announced her retirement, and her last competitive international match took place at the Women’s World Cup. Though her on-field contributions were reduced, her experience was invaluable to a young US team. Despite her illustrious career, her World Cup journey ended in penalty shootout heartbreak.
Megan Rapinoe’s legacy is a testament to her unparalleled dedication to both her sport and her activism. As she bids farewell to international soccer, her impact on and off the field will continue to inspire generations to come.