Rarely does any athlete transcend his sport to become synonymous with his age. Babe Ruth’s personality embodied the swagger of the Roaring ’20s. Muhammad Ali’s anti-war activism exemplified the tension of the 1960s.
Megan Rapinoe, midfielder for the national women’s soccer team, belongs in such company, though not in a good way.
As her Aug. 22 interview with The Atlantic demonstrated, Rapinoe epitomizes the traits becoming increasingly associated with all-too-many Americans — especially those who, like her, embrace “woke” politics: narcissism, fanaticism, hypersensitivity and a lack of external perspective.
Rapinoe spoke to the magazine two days after the Women’s World Cup ended. During that tournament, as FrontPage Magazine reported, the United States’ team received criticism for its behavior and apparent lack of focus. When Sweden unexpectedly eliminated the Americans, fans alienated by Rapinoe’s politics expressed unabashed joy.
The most significant critics included Carli Lloyd and Alexi Lalas, former players who served as commentators for Fox Sports’ coverage. Lalas represented the United States in two World Cups. Lloyd — one of Rapinoe’s former teammates — won two Women’s World Cups and two Olympic gold medals. Her 316 career games and 134 career goals rank second and third, respectively, in the national team’s history.
Lloyd reacted with disgust when some of the Americans danced, sang and took selfies with family members after they barely escaped group play with a scoreless tie against Portugal.
“I’ve never witnessed something like that,” she said. “There’s too many distractions. There’s too much emphasis on ‘How many followers do I have?’ or doing photoshoots and doing this and doing that.”
Though Lloyd never mentioned Rapinoe by name, the inference was clear.
Politically, Rapinoe thrust herself into the forefront of “woke” causes, as FrontPage Magazine reported, thereby turning the national team into her personal platform and inflicting severe damage on the team’s morale and identity.
“I don’t think the respect of wearing the crest, playing for your country and doing everything in your power to fight for your teammates was there,” Lloyd said last year. “The mentality changed and it became toxic.”
Beyond politics, Rapinoe used her status as the team’s most publicized player to start a career in fashion, which reflects Lloyd’s comments about photoshoots.
In 2020, one year after leading the United States to its fourth Women’s World Cup title, Rapinoe became the face for a women’s luxury fashion brand. In 2021, she appeared at that year’s Met Gala, then launched her own collection through Nike.
“With the exception of using my mouth,” Rapinoe told CNN, “(fashion) is the chief way that I express myself every day.”
Lalas was not amused.
“All of the good, all of the positive, all of the fame, all of the fortune and all of the attention that you get is based off of one thing,” Lalas said about the team. “It’s not because you’re incredible as a person. It’s because you’re incredible as a soccer player, and you win on a consistent basis. All of those accolades and all of that praise has come because you have won.”
Rapinoe began her response in The Atlantic by using the “woke” arsenal’s weapons to criticize her critics. First came collective victimization, the ultimate rationale for identity politics:
“I think, just in general, the way that our team was spoken about over the course of the tournament, it was fake. In 2019, we were ultra-confident, ultra-swaggy — and won everything. And even though we won, we did it in bad taste, according to our critics. This time, we weren’t confident enough, and we don’t have the right ‘mentality.’ And so we lost. It’s just so disingenuous. There’s no way for us to win, and there’s no way for us to lose.”
Attacking the favorite “woke” bogeyman followed when addressing Lalas’ and Lloyd’s remarks:
Yeah, it was really disappointing — and the speed with which those comments got into the atmosphere. Everybody on the right — and everybody who was using hateful language and these tropes — it’s like they have just been waiting since, I don’t know, 2016? 2019? They’ve been waiting for this team to stumble. But when we are perfect, then we are accused of thinking that we’re perfect.
Really, what’s happening is that the right wing wants this to be true: They want women to believe that you can’t fight for things and be excellent; you can’t ask for what you deserve and be successful. But the reality is, we’re doing that.
In equating criticism of her and her team with criticism of all women, Rapinoe mentioned two issues that are central to “woke” ideology but had nothing to do with the team’s performance:
One thing that America does really well is backlash. I think there’s a huge backlash against women happening right now. I think we see that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We’re seeing that with the trans(gender) argument in sports.
Though Rapinoe never mentioned Lloyd, she attacked the opinionated Lalas, accusing him of being an ideological stooge:
Does Alexi know exactly what he’s saying? If I was saying stuff that anchors on Fox News are also saying, I would be worried about the cosign.
Rapinoe, like a growing number of Americans, fails to realize one simple principle: Whenever you express an opinion — regardless of who you are, regardless of what that opinion is — you lose the privilege of having everybody agree with you once you express it. If you can’t handle that, then don’t express an opinion.
But Rapinoe inadvertently provided perhaps the worst example of her narcissism immediately after the loss to Sweden. When an interviewer asked her what she believed would be the most significant memory from her career, the midfielder replied, “probably ‘equal pay’ chants after the (2019) final.”
Rapinoe became the public face of the team’s public fight with U.S. Soccer for better pay. In February 2022, both sides agreed to a $22 million settlement — one-third of what the players originally demanded — with an extra $2 million going into a separate account to help current team members after their playing careers. U.S. Soccer also included a promise of equal pay, pending approval of a new collective bargaining agreement, which both sides approved three months later.
Yet during the post-game interview Rapinoe never shared credit with teammate Alex Morgan, who played a major role. Neither did Rapinoe share credit with those who began addressing the issue before she did. Among them was Hope Solo, who started the campaign and excoriated the settlement, Rapinoe and Morgan.
It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. A ‘promise’ of equal pay from the Federation and back pay for a select group of players isn’t equal pay and it’s not what this fight was about.
Throughout the entire process, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan were the two most agreeable with the Federation and to this day, continue to to accept terms that are nowhere near what we set out to do. They both know this is not a win. They know it’s an easy out of a fight they were never really in.
“Hope speaks the truth,” she said at the time.
She’s been at the forefront of leading this charge, and many people don’t realize that. She was the one who really rallied everybody together in 2015 and 2016 and brought in some people who could really shake things up.
Zachary Faria, editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, saw through Rapinoe’s rhetoric.
“At the end of the day, Rapinoe just doesn’t get it,” he wrote.
She doesn’t understand that you cannot be toxically partisan and entitled as she has been without alienating at least half the country. Her contempt for conservatives is made clear by the fictional stereotype she invented in her head of conservatives so focused on ‘hateful language.’ Those conservatives were perfectly happy to root for (or just ignore) the USWNT up until Rapinoe and company turned it into a political vehicle. (Parentheses in original)
But if using politics to promote yourself is the goal, then maybe Rapinoe “gets it” far better than Faria thinks.