Megan Rapinoe Vows to Fight for Equal Pay
The World Cup-winning football star Megan Rapinoe does not think she is qualified for public office, as some have suggested since she clashed publicly with Donald Trump. But she has promised to “fight for equal pay” for the rest of her life.
“I do continue to keep playing,” the 34-year-old told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. Asked if that meant the next World Cup in 2023, she said: “I’m going to get another one. I mean, five is better than four.”
The USA have won four World Cups. Rapinoe has played in three, winning two.
She also said she was “not sure I’m qualified for office”. To host Chuck Todd’s contention that there are “no qualifications for office these days”, Rapinoe answered with a mild slight at the current occupant of the White House:
“Yeah. Well, yeah, that’s true. Up to 44” – Trump being the 45th president – “I guess there was.”
She said: “You know what? I’m going to fight for equal pay every day for myself, for my team, and for every single person out there, man, woman, immigrant, US citizen, person of color, whatever it may be. ‘Equal pay,’ as the great Serena Williams said, ‘until I’m in my grave.’”
Rapino repeatedly made headlines on and off the field as the USA marched to the World Cup final, in which they beat the Netherlands 2-0.
She said she would not go to the White House if the team were invited, prompting tweeted ire from Trump. She said no team could win the event without gay players, of which she is one. And she emerged as a prominent voice for equal pay after it was reported that the USA men’s team earned significantly more than the women despite being significantly less successful.
On Sunday that fight produced a significant result. Procter & Gamble, a team sponsor, took out ads in the New York Times which said it was donating more than $500,000 to the women’s national team players’ association, $23,000 for each member of the 23-woman squad. The company also urged governing body US Soccer “to be on the right side of history”.
In the aftermath of the World Cup one polling company suggested Rapinoe could beat Trump in a presidential election, the kind of coverage which prompted Sports Illustrated to write: “There are elements of a modern-day Muhammad Ali in Rapinoe’s co-mingling of sports and social activism, to say nothing of her ability to turn the media’s attention, even when negative in certain circles, to her advantage.”
“That’s very flattering,” Rapinoe told NBC. “I don’t know if I’m Ali, but I’m happy to be the biggest ally I can to Ali.”
This week, Rapinoe’s remarks at a victory parade in New York City were a lightning rod for rightwing critics. She told NBC she was able to speak up in public because “the opportunity is in everyone’s exhaustion of the fighting and the negative, and our team has managed to make people proud again, to capture people’s interest, to make them want to do something.
“I think people are asking the question, ‘How can we rally around this team?’ … whether it’s equal pay or racial equality or LGBTQ rights. I think we’ve just managed to give people hope. And with that now we need to do the next step, which is to actually take the progress step.”
Asked what she would say to a notional soccer-loving Trump supporter who wanted her to visit the White House, Rapinoe said she would “try to share our message”.
“Do you, you know, believe that all people are created equal? Do you believe that equal pay should be mandated? Do you believe that everyone should have healthcare? Do you believe that we should treat everyone with respect? I think those are the basics of what we’re talking about.
“And I understand people feel upset or uncomfortable. There’s, I think, some feelings of disrespect about the anthem protest or things that I’ve said in the past, but ultimately I think I am here, open and honest. I’ve admitted mistakes. I will continue to do that.
“I … want to have that conversation because I think Trump’s message excludes people that look like me and that are me, of course, but it excludes a lot of people in his base as well. And I think that he’s trying to divide so he can conquer, not unite so we can all conquer.”
Trump has seemed in two minds about whether the USA will be invited to the White House, as champion teams commonly are. Rapinoe said there were “like, 50 policy issues that we can probably reverse and get going” before the team would go.
“I mean,” she said, “it would take a tremendous amount I think. I understand that progress is sometimes slow and I’ll never close any door all the way. But I think it would take more than Trump is willing to do.”