In an interview this week with Out.com, Megan Rapinoe a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team acknowledged that she is in fact gay. For those who follow women’s soccer closely this was hardly news, rather it was no bigger shock than the report a few days ago when Anderson Cooper decided to state the obvious. For Rapinoe however she took her message further and stated that not only does she want to make sure the public knows about her sexuality, but also wants to encourage other homosexual athletes to take a stand and come out as well.
“I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out,” Rapinoe said in her interview. “I feel like everyone is really craving people to come out. People want – they need – to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good old U.S. of A.”
Rapinoe went on to say in the interview that one of the main reasons her sexuality hasn’t come to light publicly before is because it isn’t a topic that anyone is openly asking elite athletes.
“I think [people] were trying to be respectful and that it’s my job to say ‘I’m gay” she said. “Which I am. For the record: I am gay.”
For Rapinoe to decide that now was the right time to make this declaration is remarkable. With the Summer Olympics less than a month away, many athletes are more concerned with cashing in on endorsements that the Olympics Games may bring the top performing athletes. At the FIFA Women’s World Cup last summer in Germany, Rapinoe played a key role in the USA advancing to the final game. Despite a second place finish to Japan, players like Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and Hope Solo came home to a fan base and advertisers eager to make women’s soccer relevant again.
Nike already represents Rapinoe and with her bleach blond hair and infectious smile a good showing in London should no doubt lead to further lucrative endorsements. However with her recent statements there is certainly the unfortunate risk that some companies may not want a “gay athlete” promoting their product. That is a risk that Rapinoe seems willingly to make. A risk that should not be taken lightly considering the salaries that female soccer players collect are paltry to say the least.
Rapinoe plays on a national team with an openly gay coach in Pia Sundhage as well as with a few teammates that make no secret of their gay lifestyle though they may not be plastering it across the news. However 2012 being an election year reminds us how divided the country is when it comes to social issues such as gay marriage and homosexuality. In a separate interview this week with USA Today Rapinoe spoke about the timing of her announcement.
“Our team in general is in a position where people look up to us and kids look up to us. I embrace that and I think I have a huge LGBT following. I think it’s pretty cool, the opportunity that I have, especially in sports. There’s really not that many out athletes. It’s important to be out and to live my life that way.”
Rapinoe summed up what seems to be her motivation with her decision to come forward with her sexuality in her USA Today interview:
“It’s about standing up and being counted and saying you’re proud of who you are.”
Hopefully in 2012 we have come far enough where her country no matter what their personal beliefs are, will still be proud of her and all that she represents in London.