Not your typical footballer: Megan Rapinoe is a breakout star at the Olympics


Megan Rapinoe has been getting a lot of attention lately, and not just from all the lesbians with a crush on her. The title of Sports Illustrated’s article describes Rapinoe as the “Unquiet American” which suits this nearly impossible to miss athlete. From the shock of Tilda Swinton-inspired blond hair, her goal celebrations (singing “Born in the USA” into an on-field mic at the World Cup, and displaying a Happy Birthday message to injured teammate Ali Krieger at the Olympics), her bold fashion choices, to her daring, European style of play Rapinoe doesn’t blend in with any crowd.

The article, which is worth tracking down if you can borrow from a friend or from your local library, focuses on the many ways that Rapinoe is a little different from the typical American soccer player and why it’s a good thing.

Truth be told, Pinoe is the most un-American player in U.S. women’s soccer, and that’s a compliment. For decades the U.S. has thrived on strength and speed more than skill. Rapinoe is different. With a build that more closely resembles Twiggy than tigress…Rapinoe relies instead on clever dribbling, fluid movement and visionary passing. It’s a little bit of Barcelona in red, white, and blue.

After winning back her starting spot prior to the start of the Olympics, she’s been on a tear that has cemented her place in the starting lineup and her place in the hearts of fans. In the U.S.’s opening match against France she figured prominently in three of the four U.S. goals. She added another assist and scored a “curling long-range goal that would have made David Beckham envious” in the U.S. win over Colombia.

The ways in which Rapinoe stands out from other American soccer players leads the article to the conclusion:

…it made sense last month when Rapinoe blazed another trail. On a team whose long-standing mas appeal has been based in part on its ponytailed girl-next-door aura, Pinoe became the first prominent U.S. women’s soccer player to come out to the media as gay.

Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty

We all come out in our own ways. Some of us never do. Some of us do it well, with confidence, and maybe even with panache. Some of us stumble out of the closet, saying the wrong thing, telling the wrong people, finding creative ways to screw it up as we try to find the words to express who we are. Rapinoe never hid her sexuality from her family, friends, and teammates. She apparently lived her life openly, honestly, and without reservation. However, she realized that as someone in the public eye she had the opportunity to take her coming out one step further than most of us ever have to even contemplate. She told SI, “we live part of our lives in the media and there’s something to be said for saying, ‘this is who I am, and I’m proud of it.’ The more people who do come out, the more, I guess, normal it becomes.”

Whether her decision to come out to the media has anything to do with her bold style and sense of individuality doesn’t change the fact that she did come out. Bold style or not, she took a risk, a risk that a lot of us might not take in the same position, a risk that other athletes in her position have not taken. Now millions of aspiring soccer players who might have felt out of place on that team marketed with the girl-next-door image can see themselves reflected on the pitch. They can point to Rapinoe and say that there is a place for them on the field and if they can play like she does, a place for them on the team.

Rapinoe and the rest of the U.S. team take play today against Canada and Japan faces France in the semifinals of the Olympic tournament.

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