Why Megan Rapinoe Is a Great American Story

(WEEI) Megan Rapinoe is a great American, and the success of the U.S. women’s team is a great American story. They supported their biting off-field candor with on-field dominance, taking home their fourth World Cup title with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in Lyon Sunday. Rapinoe, who drew the aggrieved ire of President Trump after promising she would not visit the “f— White House,” won the whole damn thing and scored the invitation anyway. For three weeks, Rapinoe bested the competition and set the international dialogue. Her impact was unmistakable Sunday, when FIFA president Gianni Infantino was met with boos and raucous chants for equal pay before greeting the U.S. women.

On Saturday, Rapinoe excoriated FIFA for the its gross gender pay disparity and negligent decision to schedule the Women’s World Cup Final on the same day as the men’s Gold Cup Final and 2019 Copa America Final. The Americans in attendance at Stade de Lyon Sunday supported Rapinoe’s message, all while she was presented with the Golden Boot award. The honor is awarded to the tournament’s top scorer.

Are you tired of all this winning yet? Didn’t think so.

The U.S. women celebrated their success, much to the chagrin of fuddy-duddies around the world. Alex Morgan nearly set off an international crisis when she pretended to sip some tea after scoring a goal against England last week, and in response, said she was laughing at her critics.

Rapinoe, meanwhile, told them to go cry about it.

There were probably tears streaming down Gerry Callahan’s face when Rapinoe nailed her penalty kick to give the U.S. its 1-0 lead over the Netherlands. Rose Lavelle added a goal of her own, making the advantage insurmountable.

Fanatical patriots like Callahan proclaimed they were not rooting for the U.S. women, because they dared criticize a contemptuous president who fights against the causes they use their vast public platforms to support. Rapinoe, an openly gay woman and fervent booster for gender equality, insists she can’t bring herself to gland-hand with a man whose policies are anti-LGBTQ and anti-women. It is the definition of a political statement, which Great American Athletes have made on the international stage throughout history –– from Muhammad Ali to Billie Jean King.

“Considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have, and using it for good, and for leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place — I don’t think that I would want to go and I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having that co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and fight for the same things we fight for,” Rapinoe said recently about her White House decision.

It’s hard to be more concise and clearcut than that.

As Rapinoe explained last week, her penchant for speaking out is both deeply American and patriotic. She feels secure enough to critique the U.S. while literally wearing our red, white and blue. That is the kind of freedom we should all celebrate.

Winning serves as the ultimate silencer, which makes these women untouchable right now. They’ve changed the conversation surrounding equal pay, correctly pointing out the absurdity of a system in which the women generate more revenue than their male counterparts, yet get paid far less. Twenty-eight members of the team are literally suing the U.S. Soccer Federation about this very issue as we speak.

It is shameful and worth getting upset over. Rapinoe and her teammates understand change doesn’t come when the oppressed sit politely and wait their turn. Sometimes you have to be a little rude.

"I'm down with the boos,” Rapinoe said when asked about the boo birds who welcomed FIFA’s president to the postgame festivities. "It's time to move that conversation forward to the next step, and a little public shame never hurt anybody, right?”

Right. And this time, it was a brash purple-haired lesbian who levied the shame upon the suited men in power. The U.S. women scored seven victories to win the World Cup, but their greatest triumphs extended far beyond the pitch, and will probably last well beyond this tournament.