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Megan Rapinoe Honors Colin Kaepernick In Powerful Woman of The Year Speech

Literal goals

Megan Rapinoe celebrates a goal with open arms.

Megan Rapinoe is unafraid to stand up for her ideals and what’s right. She’s one of the greatest athletes of our time, an out and proud queer woman and just a complete badass in general. What Megan stands for scares some people who aren’t comfortable with women who own their success, talent, and conviction (including the President) but she still does so with style and amazing swagger. For all these reasons it’s not surprising that Glamour magazine honored Megan with their woman of the year award.

After being introduced by Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris, who credited Rapinoe with helping them be more comfortable being public in their own relationship, Rapinoe was presented with the award by a girls’ soccer team to represent what she’s done to help women and girl in sports. In characteristic fashion, Rapinoe used her acceptance to bring attention to others and injustice.

In her speech, Rapinoe specifically honored Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling protest of the national anthem sparked national outrage and conversation the is on-going. That protest of systemic racism in the US has effectively ended Kaepernick’s career. Rapinoe was one of the first athletes to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, and has continued to support him since. Rapinoe thanked him specifically and noted the unfairness of how he has been treated for taking a knee to stand up for what’s right.

I feel like I have to take this opportunity to thank the person for whom I don’t feel like I would be here without. Someone whose courage and bravery was so bright and so bold. A person filled with conviction, unafraid of the consequences because he knew, it really wasn’t about playing it safe: It was about doing what is necessary and backing down to exactly nobody.

So while I’m enjoying all of this unprecedented—and, frankly, a little bit uncomfortable—attention and personal success, in large part due to my activism off the field, Colin Kaepernick is still effectively banned from the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of known and systematic police brutality against people of color, known and systematic racial injustice, and known and systematic white supremacy. I see no clearer example of that system being alive and well than me standing before you right now. It would be a slap in the face to Colin, and to so many other faces, not to acknowledge, and for me personally, to work relentlessly to dismantle that system that benefits some over the detriment of others, and frankly is quite literally tearing us apart in this country.

It is fantastic to see Rapinoe take this moment to acknowledge her privilege, call out inequality and injustice, and honor Kaepernick. But it’s not surprising. Even with all her success and triumph, Rapinoe has used her platform to turn the spotlight onto issues of importance, especially those that tend to make the establishment uncomfortable.

In her speech, Rapinoe also acknowledge the ongoing battle with US Soccer Federation for the World Cup Champions women’s team to be paid equally, and thanked her mom for instilling in her the lesson that your success and abundance don’t mean anything unless you’re a good person. Rapinoe stated that she wanted to redefine what it means to be successful, and make it about lifting others up, not standing alone.

I’ve gained this incredible platform in such a short period of time, but I’m not going to stand on it alone. I refuse to do that. There’s going to be ladders on every side, all over the place. And I’m not going to act like it wasn’t Colin Kaepernick, Tarana Burke and the #MeToo Movement, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi of Black Lives Matter, the women of Time’s Up, Harvey Milk, Gloria Steinem, Audre ‪Lorde, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and the injustices that so many others face that have put me in this very position. And I’m not going to act like my whiteness has nothing to do with me standing before you now. I don’t want to live in that kind of world. I don’t think that kind of world is the world that suits everybody and is going to move us forward in the direction that we need to go.

We’ve got to switch the game up.

Caring is cool.

Lending your platform to others is cool.

Sharing your knowledge and your success and your influence and your power is cool.

Giving all the fucks is cool. Doing more is cool.

For one, I want all of those printed on a t-shirt, but more importantly Rapinoe is absolutely right. It’s not success that defines us, it’s what we do with that success to help others and make the world a more just place. As Rapinoe said: “We have to do more. We’re here. We’re ready. Everyone’s ready to do more? Good!”

We’re ready, Megan.

(Image: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.