US Women’s National Soccer Team star Megan Rapinoe, on Monday, December 9, was honored with another accolade, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, for her performance on the national soccer team and for her off-field activism.
Rapinoe, who took home the Golden Boot and Golden Ball from the World Cup as top scorer and best player this year, has also been advocating for gender pay equity in sport. The midfielder also won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best female player earlier this month.
“Choosing Megan as the Sportsperson of the Year was an easy decision,” Sports Illustrated co-editor in chief Steve Cannella, said in a statement.
“She is a force of nature on and off the field, a trailblazing soccer player who also proves every day how large and loud a voice a socially conscious athlete can have in 2019,” Cannella added.
The soccer star is also set to appear on the cover of the annual SI issue holding a sledgehammer. The attacking midfield’s iconic image, however, is the pose she struck after scoring six World Cup goals, raising both arms towards the audience, acknowledging an ovation.
“It was kind of like a F*** you, but with a big smile and a s*** eating grin,” Rapinoe told the magazine. “You are not going to steal any of our joy.”
The 34-year-old, along with her teammates, had filed a lawsuit against the US soccer governing body in March for gender discrimination.
The team had argued that they had been paid less than the national men’s team and were provided inferior working conditions. The women’s team is set to face qualifying matches for the 2020 Tokyo Games beginning next month.
Reports state that Rapinoe is the first individual soccer player to receive the honor from the magazine ever since it started giving out the awards in 1954. The California resident had also recently urged male soccer superstars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to become more politically active.
“I want to shout: ‘Cristiano, Lionel, Zlatan, help me!’” she told France Football. “These big stars do not engage in anything when there are so many problems in men’s football. Do they fear losing everything?”
“They believe that, but it is not true. Who will erase Messi or Ronaldo from world football history for a statement against racism or sexism?” she added.
The 34-year-old was among the country’s sportspersons to back former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and knelt during the national anthem in protest of racism.
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