As a follow up of my June FAR post, I am writing about soccer and the Women’s World Cup. The final aired on Sunday July 7th and saw the USA women beat the Netherlands 2-0. This historical win was the fourth time the USA women have won the World Cup since its inception. It was also the highest watched sporting event of the year.
But more importantly I want to talk about the awesome women that played in this tournament and the awareness that each team brought to the global consciousness. Each team that entered the World Cup competition had moments that changed who they were as athletes and as people which brought awareness to their communities, countries, and the world. Four times: Chile, Jamaica, South Africa, and Scotland made their World Cup debut. More people watched the Women’s World Cup then the previous Men’s World Cup last year. My last post went over the visible changes and progression that has taken place in these four years.
The Brazilian player Marta became the leading goal scorer in ANY FIFA World Cup Competition (including the men’s tournament) with 17 goals throughout her international career. She also is the ONLY person to have scored in 5 World Cup Competitions. She is Catholic, a Lesbian, and a UN Ambassador. Overall ROCKSTAR.
With the visible progression also has come visible changes in open representation. This World Cup also had the most LGBTQIA athletes. Now there has always been queer athletes most likely since sporting event existence but this year saw multiple teams not only having ‘out’ athletes but whole teams celebrating in Pride Parades across the globe, releasing jerseys with rainbows, and talking about their journeys and experiences as queer not just in a very highly hetero-normative community like sports but in communities that are just now starting to learn how to be inclusive.
Megan Rapinoe even stated that “You can’t win a championship without gays.” Megan Rapinoe, one of the co-captains, the Golden Boot winner (the most goals scored in the tournament) is a fiercely open Lesbian who is currently in a relationship with WNBA star Sue Bird. Teammates Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger are in a relationship. Kelley O’Hara ran to the stands to kiss her girlfriend in celebration of the win which was caught on camera. It has also been reported that this World Cup had double in the amount of open queer athletes which brings about representation and visibility.
So lets talk about Megan Rapinoe. She is a Northern California native who played in both the 2015 and the 2019 World Cups. She was the first female athlete to take the knee in support of NFL Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem (See my FAR Post here) She has been extremely vocal in the role, position, and responsibility of being a Star Athlete has. And she does not shy away from making her voice heard. When the team won in 2015, they were invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama, which they gladly accepted. Megan was asked the second week into this year’s World Cup if she would go to the White House if they won. She responded with a RESOUNDING NO.
This caused quite a stir. Which even caught the attention of the 45th President, prompted one of his ranting Tweets where he told off Megan Rapinoe and that she better perform before anything else.
And did she ever.
After the US won their match against Sweden, Megan started off the press interview addressing her previous statement, apologized for using curse words but reaffirmed that she would not go to the White House as she does not respect the current President nor the policies, rhetoric, and actions that has come out of his administration. (Watch clip here)
Her fellow teammate, Ali Krieger also stated that she would not go to the White House as she “refuses to respect a man that does not warrant respect”
Since their World Cup win, it was Melania who tweeted congratulations first with 45 following many hours later. No official invite has been announced from the White House. That has not stop many other politicians from stepping in, showing their support and appreciation. The Mayor of New York immediately invited the team and arranged a parade. The Winners were invited to Congress which they gladly accepted. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all extended invites which have been accepted. All of the female Senators have extended invitations to the team and have all been accepted.
The amount of support across the lines, across sports, and across genders has been remarkable. The first commercial that was broadcast after the World Cup coverage was a tear jerking, beautiful piece by Nike – take a moment to watch, click here.
Nike also announced that the Women’s USA jersey has become the NUMBER 1 selling jersey. It has also been reported that the jersey is being worn by all genders, all ages. Currently the jerseys are sold out everywhere. I even saw little boys wearing Lloyd, Rapinoe, and Morgan jerseys during a Fourth of July celebration. Immediately following the win, the crowd that was in the stadium in France stated to chant “EQUAL PAY” as it has largely been reported that the all of the women’s soccer teams are drastically underpaid. The 2015 USA winning team is currently suing the National Organization for Wage/Gender Discrimination.
Senator Joe Manchin has proposed legislation blocking national funding for the 2026 Men’s World Cup until the Women’s team receives equal pay. The corporation Proctor and Gamble, which makes “Secret” Deodorant, has given $529,000 to the Women’s Team as a way to help bridge the gap. They announced it by taking out a full page ad in the New York times. The $529,000 carries meaning as it is $23,000 for each of the 23 members. They have produced many commercials and ads that support overall equal pay yet are still highly profiting from the “pink tax.”
A local news reporter was at a bar reported on the crowds that had gathered to watch the final when the crowd behind him started to chant “Fuck Trump” This World Cup carried much more then soccer, it was about awareness, progress, and equality. The Ads and the Sportscaster continued to talk about inclusion, equality, and rhetoric about gender. Playing like a girl has started to shift in many peoples’ mindset. Girls and boys tuned into each game and were entertained, awed, and inspired in the athletes like Ellen White, Marta, Lucia Bronze, Alex Morgan, Rose LeValle, and Megan Rapinoe.
The entire US squad has talked about the role, position, and responsibility that they have felt. They each know what it means to see themselves on the pitch and on the TV. They were kids when the first two teams lifted the cup. They wore jersey of Michelle Ekers, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, and Abby Wambach. And they know that with each youth jersey bought, is one more dream, one more child that knows they aren’t alone, that what they dream of can be realized.
When addressing the crowd at the New York parade, Megan Rapinoe gave an inspirational speech.
This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better,” she said. “We have to love more, hate less. We’ve got to listen more and talk less. We’ve got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility. Every single person here. Every single person who is not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree, it’s out responsibility to make this world a better place.
A challenge, pledge, and dream for us all.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Whittier College. She is the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. Anjeanette also writes for the activist blog, Engaged Gaze. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it. Anjeanette has had a love affair with books from a very young age and always finds time in her demanding academic career to crack open a new book.