Megan Rapinoe has been a staple on the left side of the US Women’s National Team’s pitch since her first cap in July of 2006. She’s been capped 137 times since then, playing in two World Cups. They reached the final both times, with one win and one runner-up. She’s scored 37 career goals for the national team and assisted 53 goals in that span. She assisted Abby Wambach’s 122nd minute goal against Brazil in the semifinal of the 2011 World Cup and is seventh in assists in USWNT history. But more importantly than any of those numbers, Megan Rapinoe just ‘gets it.’
(For what it’s worth, USSoccer.com has the all-time records readily available for the men’s senior team, but when one clicks on the ‘records’ tab for the women’s side, it redirects visitors to the WNT homepage.)
Rapinoe, known affectionately as ‘Pinoe, is outwardly gay, an advocate for the LGBT+ community, and is dating talented Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (for the life of me, I seriously hope there are passionate dinner table debates over whose assist is crisper). She’s also probably a good baker, since she put the icing on the cake to end what was a morally challenging Tournament of Nations.
US head coach Jill Ellis was shallow at the left back position before the tournament due to an injured Kelley O’Hara and a handful of other unfavorable club situations. So, Ellis dug a little deeper in the player pool and called Jaelene Hinkle into camp. That single call-up hurt a great deal of the USWNT’s most passionate and loyal supporters.
For those unfamiliar with Hinkle’s situation, she has a past of being vocally homophobic. She was called into a national team camp in June of 2017, but withdrew due to “personal reasons.” Purely coincidentally, June is also Pride month, and the US men and women’s senior teams wore rainbow jersey numbers to show support for the LGBT community. “Personal reasons.”
The 700 Club is the perfect show for someone in the queer and queer-friendly community that is women’s soccer to go on, right? If you haven’t heard of it, the 700 Club is the show of the man who won the Stonewall Awards’ 2013 Bigot of the Year. In an ill-conceived PR move, Hinkle made an appearance on the show to defend her choice to not wear a rainbow on her back.
In sum, Hinkle’s call-up pissed off a great deal of USWNT fans. Some fans felt that US Soccer was simply using the LGBT community to make money off of Pride month. Others felt outraged by the organization’s willingness to prioritize winning over humanity. Stephanie Y of Stars and Stripes FC did a great job of laying out the true cost of Hinkle’s bigotry:
“I don’t know how many times or in how many different ways I have to tell you that publicly expressing your views that you cannot morally support LGBTQ people is not a ‘personal belief’ that ‘doesn’t hurt anyone.’ Homophobia has real consequences for real people, sometimes at the cost of their lives. According to The Trevor Project:
- LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth
- LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth
- In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25
- LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection”
Jaelene Hinkle chose to go on The 700 Club during Pride Month and tell as many people as possible that she couldn’t wear a rainbow number on her jersey. If she had kept it to herself and just quietly gone about her life and career, that certainly would have been just a personal belief that hurt no one. Instead, she chose to testify on a nationwide show hosted by a notorious homophobe and racist, allowing her message to affirm the beliefs of others who don’t support the LGBTQ community.
As Jill Ellis wisely chose to cut Hinkle in the days leading up to the Tournament of Nation, in came self-appointed “gay-wad” Megan Rapinoe to save the day. Not only did ‘Pinoe play 244 of 270 minutes, starting all three games, scoring one goal and assisting three, she righted US Soccer’s wrong.
During the trophy ceremony at the end of the Tournament of Nations, Rapinoe sauntered on stage to receive her medal, rainbow flag in hand. It was a direct rebuke of the bigotry permitted by US Soccer. It was a nod to those deeply hurt by the call-up. It was ‘Pinoe’s way of saying, “Yeah, me too.”
Here’s the report about her decision to include the flag:
From the mixed zone: I asked Rapinoe about the #ToN2018 trophy celebration with her team and the Pride flag, she says while it's representative of her herself it's also an ode to the #uswnt LGBTQ+ Fans.#USAvBRA
— Sandra💯💙 (@SandHerrera_) August 3, 2018
What did the USWNT do to deserve this woman? She’s an incredible left midfielder/forward and an even better person. Rapinoe does a fantastic job of voicing the need for visibility within the LGBT community, and she’s creating substantial change. She appeared on the cover of ESPN the Mag’s body issue with Bird, the first time an openly gay couple was featured in the magazine at all, let alone on the cover. Rapinoe is simply extraordinary.
And finally, no discussion about Megan Rapinoe is complete without watching her 2011 assist in Brazil:
Long Live Megan Rapinoe