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Megan Rapinoe: White male athletes typically don't speak out since they aren't impacted

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·3-min read

Megan Rapinoe, a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, continues to be one of the most outspoken and influential athletes in the sports world.

During an interview with BBC Sport, Rapinoe addressed why other athletes — specifically white men — don’t feel the need to use their platforms in similar ways.

Rapinoe: White men don’t feel effects of ‘isms’

Rapinoe is white and recognizes the benefits that come with that. She is also a woman and homosexual, which means she is more likely to feel discrimination, whether it’s conscious or not.

That’s why she has spoken out about equal pay with the national team, racism and LGBTQ rights. But people such as “white athletes, particularly male athletes,” aren’t impacted and may not analyze the world around them, she said.

Rapinoe, 35, told BBC Sport:

“A lot of times, white athletes, particularly male athletes, don't feel the effects that other people do; they don't feel the effects of racism, sexism, misogyny or pay inequity.

“We don't speak out because we are privileged and we don't have to. It comes in part from a lack of examination of your own life and the world around you.

“For white people and probably white men in general, they don't really have to analyze the world around them to be successful. For example, if you're gay, you're constantly traversing a heteronormative world.

“While it is not necessarily people's fault — people that were born now didn't create the country the way it was created — that doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility to it.”

Rapinoe’s words echo calls throughout 2020 for white athletes to stand up and speak out against racism, rather than sit quietly by. An example: Rapinoe’s fiancée, four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird, took the lead on player organizing in the league’s bubble to ease the burden on the shoulders of her Black peers.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll urged white people to learn America’s “real history” in August. He added, “Black people can't scream anymore, they can't march any more, they can't bear their souls anymore to what they've lived with for hundreds of years.”

Rapinoe calls lack of investment ‘disgraceful’

Megan Rapinoe spoke out on why white male athletes don't speak out more often. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Megan Rapinoe spoke out on why white male athletes don't speak out more often. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Rapinoe also took aim at equality in soccer. The USWNT is still engaged in an equal pay battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The lawsuit is about more than just pay, as it calls for increased investment in youth levels.

Rapinoe told BBC Sport she views that as the same issue with women’s soccer in England.

“It's 2020. How long has the Premier League been around? And we're only just seeing a club like Manchester United put effort and pounds towards a women's team? Frankly, it's disgraceful.”

USWNT stars have traveled over the FA Women’s Super League in England to get minutes on the pitch while the United States deals with rising cases of COVID-19. Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Samantha Mewis, Christen Press and Tobin Heath are all abroad.

Rapinoe’s future for Olympics, World Cup

Rapinoe did not play in the NWSL’s Challenge Cup in Utah or its Fall Series of friendlies. She instead spent four months in the WNBA’s bubble with Bird while training for the rescheduled Olympics.

She is “definitely not anywhere near retirement,” she said, and will “take a longer look at the next three years” after the Tokyo games.

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