Soccer star Megan Rapinoe revealed that her former coach, Farid Benstiti, made “fat-shaming” comments to players — which could help explain his forced resignation in July.
In an interview with NPR, Rapinoe, who is known for her outspoken support of equal pay for female athletes, spoke about “abuse” that players in the National Women’s Soccer League go through.
“I mean, I see it even just from, you know, the players’ experience in the [National Women’s Soccer League]. How much abuse the players have put up with over the years, you know, even just, like, verbal abuse, like dumb s*** that, like, if a coach said something to me like that, like, there’s no way,” Rapinoe said.
“Just like — well, our coach got fired last year, from the Reign. He made some — it was basically like a fat-shaming comment. He was talking about — he’s going to, like, take people’s food away. And I’m like, oh, my God, grow up. You just got yourself fired; you’re so stupid,” she added.
When Benstiti was forced to resign last year, The Washington Post reported that players complained about verbal abuse “after the French coach allegedly made inappropriate comments to players regarding their fitness and nutrition.”
But Rapinoe’s new comments about Benstiti may explain more precisely why he was forced out.
Rapinoe said that when female athletes are paid, even if it’s barely enough to make a living, they often give up their rights.
“But, like, just little stuff like that where if you’re making $25,000 and you have no autonomy over your rights, you have — you’re not a free agent. You’re barely scraping by. You just came out of college. Like, you’re not going to say anything. You’re just not. Like, it’s too difficult to put someone in that position,” Rapinoe said.
However, when it comes to Benstiti specifically, his behavior and comments as a coach were well known, even before he was hired by OL Reign in 2020, Sports Illustrated reported.
U.S. national team’s Lindsey Horan played for Benstiti when she played at French club Paris Saint-Germain.
Horan explained on a podcast that Benstiti pushed her to lose more weight and even “announced to the team, ‘Lindsey, your weight is not good enough, your body fat is still too high. You’re not going to play in a game until that’s done.’”
“One of my teammates, after an away game, she had chocolate and the coach heard it in the front [of the team bus] and came back and basically took the chocolate from her, and said, ‘You can’t have this around Lindsey,’ because I was sitting a seat ahead of her,” Horan added.
There is, of course, a proven connection between body fat and athletic performance — which is what professional athletes are paid for.
“Reduced nonessential body fat contributes to muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance, speed, and agility development,” the National Strength and Conditioning Association reported.
“The additional body fat can limit endurance, balance, coordination, and movement capacity. Joint range of motion can be negatively affected by excessive body mass and fat as well, and mass can form a physical barrier to joint movement in a complete range of motion. Thus, athletes competing in sports that require high levels of flexibility benefit from having low levels of body fat,” the report continued.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.