On the 23rd of September, at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Megan Rapinoe was named the Best FIFA Women’s Player of 2019.
This comes of little surprise to anyone who is aware of the year Rapinoe has had: Rapinoe led the U.S. team to win the 2019 World Cup with six goals and three assists, publicly slammed Donald Trump by refusing to visit the White House and fought for equal rights for women in soccer.
She took the media by storm and is using her platform to advocate for women, the LGBT+ community, and people of colour.
Her acceptance speech was no exception. Rapinoe addresses Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly and their fight against the racism that they face in the soccer industry, Sahar Khodayari who set herself on fire after being arrested for trying to enter a stadium to watch the World Cup and the LGBTQ+ women players in the league who fight against rampant homophobia.
After this, Rapinoe says, “Those are all the stories that inspire me so much, but they also admittedly make me a little bit sad and a little bit disappointed.”
Rapinoe is disappointed in the lack of support that marginalised groups in soccer receive when they are fighting against the systems that keep them down.
“I feel like, if we really want to have meaningful change, what I think would be most inspiring, would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly, if they were as outraged by racism as they were,” says Rapinoe.
“If everybody was as outraged by homophobia as the LGBTQ+ players. If everybody was as outraged about equal pay, or the lack thereof, or the lack of investment in the women’s games, other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me.”
This is Rapinoe’s call to action. Rapinoe is asking the people at the awards ceremony, the men and women who play soccer and are a part of FIFA, to use their power and platform to stand up against the inequal opportunities currently existing in soccer today.
Rapinoe pleads, “Lend your platform to other people. Lift other people up. We have the unique opportunity in football, different to any other sport in the world, to use this beautiful game to actually change the world for better.”
It is incredibly inspiring watching Rapinoe, a woman at the height of her soccer career, use the media attention and the awards she receives to lift up the marginalised people around her and make not only FIFA and the soccer community a better place, but the world.
In a society where women are kept down, Rapinoe is taking up space unapologetically and using her power to promote change. She is not only a role model for young women who wish to follow their passion for sports, but for young women everywhere.
Megan Rapinoe is teaching girls that their opinions are worthy, to empower the people around them and to always fight for what they believe in.
Watch the full speech here.