Virulently anti-Trump soccer star Megan Rapinoe has been named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
Rapinoe was one of the stars of the U.S. Women’s National Team that won the World Cup, and scored the goal that gave the team its final victory.
“She is just the fourth woman in the award’s 66-year history to win it unaccompanied, a feat that is both a remarkable athletic achievement and a reflection of entrenched gender biases,” Sports Illustrated opined in its lengthy celebration of Rapinoe’s life.
“Rapinoe challenged perceptions of her, of female athletes, of all women. She led her teammates, three months before their tentpole tournament, to sue the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay; to declare in advance that they would not visit the White House when they won the Cup,” the outlet added.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 9, 2019
“[S]he never expected to have to perform while the president of her country taunted her and a nonzero percentage of Americans rooted for her to fail,” the magazine’s profile said.
In a profane rant that circulated before the World Cup win, Rapinoe said she would not go to the “f—ing White House” afterward, which prompted a tweet from President Donald Trump advising Rapinoe to play the game first before making post-victory plans.
In the Sports Illustrated piece, Rapinoe revealed that Trump’s tweet was a powerful incentive to prove she could win.
Rapinoe burst onto the national stage when she decided to emulate former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest. Kaepernick said he knelt during the anthem to protests racial injustice.
U.S. Soccer eventually changed its rules to forestall such protests.
“Colin Kaepernick very much inspired me, and inspired an entire nation, and still does, to actually think about these things,” Rapinoe told Yahoo Sports in May.
“The way he spoke about them so clearly, so matter-of-fact, wasn’t trying to convince anyone. Just, ‘This is what is happening, this is what I’m willing to do about it.’ I found that extremely inspiring and convicting. Like, how can you not support?”
Trump falls at the other end of Rapinoe’s admiration scale. She called the president “sexist,” “misogynistic,” “small-minded,” “racist” and “not a good person.”
She also appears to delight in the fact that her skills on the field give her impunity from any consequences.
“I feel like it’s kind of defiance in and of itself to just be who I am and wear the jersey, and represent it. Because I’m as talented as I am, I get to be here, you don’t get to tell me if I can be here or not,” she told Yahoo.
“So it’s kind of a good ‘F you’ to any sort of inequality or bad sentiments that the [Trump] administration might have towards people who don’t look exactly like him. Which, God help us if we all looked like him. Scary. Really scary. Ahh, disturbing,” she said.
The Sports Illustrated piece noted that her hatred for the president runs so deeply that she did not talk to her father for weeks after he voted for Trump in 2016.
Sports Illustrated’s choice brought some pushback.
In an Op-Ed for the Washington Examiner, writer Tom Joyce said Sports Illustrated made the wrong call.
“There’s no denying Rapinoe is a great soccer player. She earned the World Cup’s Golden Ball Award, recognizing the tournament’s best overall player,” he wrote.
“With Sports Illustrated fighting for relevance and its stature declining, it seems like they went with a pick that would generate buzz among liberals. It’s what they did last year when they had Christine Blasey Ford present their 2018 Inspiration of the Year Award.”
“While Sports Illustrated has the right to go full woke ESPN and continue declining because they force politics into the sports world, there are plenty of other athletes that may be more worthy of the award than Rapinoe based on athletic success in 2019,” Joyce added.
His suggestions included Tom Brady for winning a Super Bowl at age 41, the full U.S. women’s soccer team or even the Washington Nationals.
“Instead of picking a uniter, a person or team that is recognized by everyone as a phenomenal athlete, Sports Illustrated picked a political divider. It will generate some page views for them now, but it won’t save their publication,” he wrote.
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