Sports Illustrated named U.S. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe as 2019 Sportsperson of the Year after a year in which she led the U.S. Women's National Team to a World Cup victory, and also engaged in a public conflict with President Donald Trump.
"Megan Rapinoe is Sportsperson of the Year, though, not because of her newfound fame but because of how she's handled it," the cover story said.
Rapinoe scored six goals during a dominant World Cup run, but the team perhaps gained more scrutiny for a comment made by Rapinoe during an interview, when she said "I'm not going to the f***ing White House" if the team won.
Rapinoe and her teammates were busing to their training grounds in the western outskirts of Paris on June 26, in advance of a quarterfinal against France, when Donald Trump fired his Twitter salvo. A video, recorded earlier in the year, was making the rounds; in it Rapinoe declared, "I'm not going to the f------ White House" if the U.S. wins. And now POTUS was tweeting: ". . . Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!" Midfielder Allie Long saw this and leaned forward in her seat, toward Rapinoe in front of her. "Pookie," she said, "you a G."
(Content warning: strong language):
Megan Rapinoe "I'm not going to the White House" "No voy a ir a la Casa Blanca" Donald Trump www.youtube.com
The team made its run while the
president was tweeting about Rapinoe, making Rapinoe simultaneously a figure of athletic excellence and a lightning rod for political divisiveness. In the past, Rapinoe has embraced a role as a social activist.
She joined former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, and although she no longer kneels, she said she still thinks about the issue.
"I considered [continuing to kneel]," she says. "It's still something I'm a little conflicted about. I don't know what would have happened [if I'd continued]. Can you do the same thing without kneeling? Did I make my point? How long do you need to protest? It certainly was better for me to stop kneeling. So, that's a little, like—" Rapinoe scrunches up her face. As she graces magazine covers, as she appears on stages and fields and podiums across the world, she carries the question with her: Am I doing enough?
Rapinoe and the USWNT are also involved in a conflict with the United States Soccer Federation over pay. The national team has sued the USSF in an attempt to gain equal pay with the men's national team, although there is a dispute about whether their compensation, considered as a whole, is ultimately inferior to the men's team.