“We need to use the talents, powers and skills that we have to make the world a better place.”
Megan Rapinoe, who helped Team USA to football gold at London 2012 and two Women’s World Cup triumphs, spoke on Wednesday (9 December) at the Forbes Power Women’s Summit, opening up about her varied roles as athlete, activist, author and leader in a candid conversation.
“Just because I step onto the field and put a jersey on, that doesn’t mean I’m not who I am,” Rapinoe said during the summit, which was held over video-conferencing this year.
“For me, I was born with this amazing talent to be an athlete. How do I leverage that off the field, too? On the field, I’m trying to be the best player I can, and off the field I’m trying to do that as well.”
Rapinoe, who has played as a midfielder and winger for the U.S. Women’s National Team since 2006, has earned plenty of hardware on the pitch, including a memorable 2012 Olympic Games triumph, marking a third consecutive gold for Team USA at the Games.
While the U.S. lost in the quarterfinals to Sweden at Rio 2016, it collected World Cup titles in both 2015 and 2019.
Continuing the fight, on and off the pitch
As Rapinoe’s profile has grown on the field, so too has her activism off of it.
Her memoir, One Life, was released in November 2020 and is a call to "fight for justice and equality".
Rapinoe echoed much of that sentiment on Wednesday.
“For marginalised people, we’re often not afforded the opportunity or landscape to reach our potential,” said Rapinoe, who is engaged to basketball star and fellow Olympic gold medallist Sue Bird, both outspoken members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“If there is a barrier in the way, I think I have to bust it down and extend beyond myself. How do I leverage (who I am) for good? I have people listening to me, so I feel a responsibility to do what I can with what I have to try to make the world better in whatever way I’m able to.”
But after that? Rapinoe will be 38 come the next Women’s World Cup set for Australia and New Zealand in 2023.
Smiling, she said, "After this Olympics I’m going to have to sit down and have a long talk with my body and see where that’s at.
"I want to keep playing as long as I can. We have this short time in the span of our life to be an athlete. I think sometimes it feels long, like I’ve been doing this forever… but I don’t really want to cut it short.
"It’s an amazing job. Hopefully I can make it to Australia for a World Cup. That idea is pretty enticing. I feel like I’ll still be clinging on for that one.” - Megan Rapinoe on playing at the 2023 Women's World Cup
Rapinoe, who recently started a clothing and lifestyle brand with USWNT team-mates Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Meghan Klingenberg, said she isn’t sure what will come after her playing career, but that she’d like to continue to use her platform for good.
“(I see myself) continuing to try to push and re-imagine the status quo,” she said. “We obviously need more female leaders. We need more gay leaders. We need more women in leadership positions.
"I think while we have made some progress, and I think this year has pulled the veil back (on certain issues), we have a far way to go."
Rapinoe credited her parents, in particular her mother, for empowering her and her twin sister Rachael not just to be successful athletes on the field but off it as well.
She said while she continues to fight for causes that are important to her, she will not let herself be deterred by the process which can often be a bumpy road.
“I think the most important thing is to do something – and you don’t have to do it perfectly,” Rapinoe said of speaking out. “You don’t have to have all of the answers, but to be scared into inaction by trying to have the perfect (response). Don’t worry about getting it right."
"Unfortunately, I’ll have enough work in front of me for 10 lifetimes. I’ll continue to try and broaden this conversation." - Megan Rapinoe on her fight for social justice