By DANIELLE GENET and ANGELINE JANE BERNABE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Megan Rapinoe is known for leading the U.S. Women’s National soccer team to victory at the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cup, but off the field, she’s become an icon for speaking out on the issues that matter most.
In her new memoir, One Life, Rapinoe opens up about her journey as an athlete and how she discovered her voice.
In an interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, Rapinoe shared that her story began when she first picked up a soccer ball at the age of 4 and was introduced to the sport.
But while she would go on to win two World Cup titles, she always remembered what her parents instilled in her as a child — that how she lived her life was more important than winning.
“It’s who I am. I have a really big close family, a very opinionated family,” said Rapinoe. “I had the opportunity to really look back and really think like, how did I end up here? This small town kid from a really conservative area and all the people, although we might not agree on everything, or have very different views on things, I feel like I’m such a product of where I’m from … those sort of small town values and it was just really cool to be able to kind of go back and run through memory lane.”
She stayed true to her upbringing and those values she learned as a child even when she started training with the United States women’s national soccer team in 2006.
Perhaps no moment was as pivotal as when she took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
While she faced backlash for doing so, she still felt it was the right thing to do. She also recognized her privilege.
“I just think everybody deserves respect and dignity and humanity,” said Rapinoe. “Growing up, I didn’t realize that I had that respect and that I am privileged. I know I’m a woman and I know that I’m gay but at the end of the day I have this white skin, and that says a lot to everybody else.”
In One Life, Rapinoe also talks about winning the 2019 World Cup. That same year, she became a leader in the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s fight for equal pay in a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The soccer star stopped by ABC News’ Good Morning America in August 2019 and said that the team wouldn’t accept anything less than equal pay.
“We show up for a game, if we win the game if we lose the game if we tie the game, we want to be paid equally, period,” she said at the time.
While a recent ruling struck down many of the team’s claims, her fight for equal pay resonated with many across the country, sparking a movement for other women to come forward and continue the conversation.
“We started this lawsuit on our own behalf but I think … we realized that we are truly speaking for millions of people,” said Rapinoe. “So to hear that sort of collective understanding of our fight knowing that it’s everybody’s fight really meant so much.”
“I just feel like the more that I’ve learned and started to understand inequality, whether that be racial inequality or pay equity or being a gay woman, I just think that everybody deserves this right,” added Rapinoe. “It’s not a zero sum game where if I do better, you have to do worse. I think that a lot of people are suffering right now and some people are suffering more because of systemic issues or systemic racism. But I think at the end of the day, I want everyone to have the opportunity to just really be their full selves and I think us as a country will be better for it.”
Now, with her memoir, she hopes to continue inspiring fans across the country and hopes they all stand up for what’s right.
“You deserve the space that you’re standing in,” she said. “Just be on the right side of history.”
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