In the midst of flying confetti and fluttering star-spangled flags in the air, thousands of U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team (USWNT) fans packed around a stretch of lower Manhattan known as the “Canyon of Heroes” on Wednesday to see the World Cup champions at the New York City ticker tape parade. As the players made their victory lap atop red, white and blue floats, the crowds erupted into rousing chant of “U.S.A., U.S.A.!”
The spectacle at New York City’s parade for the USWNT was fit for welcoming back American heroes — and many of the parade-goers believed they were. However, of all the players on the team, the player being praised the most for her prowess both on and off the field was USWNT captain Megan Rapinoe.
“The idea of patriotism and being American is absolutely embodied in Megan Rapinoe and her strength to say, ‘Hey there’s things we need to work on in America and I’m in a position to shed a light on these issues.’” Dan Walling, a USWNT fan who attended the parade with his two young daughters, told Yahoo Lifestyle. “She’s got the freedom of speech, so God bless her.”
In addition to being lauded as the top scorer for her team and best player of the World Cup tournament, the USWNT star is also being hailed as a true American patriot. As Rapinoe’s float approached, she inspired a palpable excitement as adoring fans screamed her name and strained to catch a glimpse of the purple-haired star in her bright red shades.
Throughout the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Rapinoe became a source of both inspiration and ire for her silent and vocal protests to the current state of America.
On the field, the USWNT midfielder pointedly kept her hands pressed to her sides and her mouth shut while the American national anthem was played before their matches. Although the move was interpreted by some as a sign of disrespect to the country and American troops, a USWNT parade-goer disputed the act as being “anti-American.”
“[Choosing not] to sing or put your hand on your heart doesn’t make you anti-troop, anti-American or anti-flag,” parade-goer Jackie MacLeod told Yahoo Lifestyle.
“It’s just saying, ‘Look, we’re seeing injustices across the board in this country, whether it’s young black men getting shot in the streets, whether it’s all of the things happening under this administration,’ but taking a stand when ... you have a platform is amazing,” MacLeod added.
MacLeod even argued that these acts of “disobedience” are an integral part of being an American.
“Having people who take small steps towards passive disobedience or sometimes even active disobedience is important in this country,” she said. “It doesn’t make you not a patriot.”
Off the field, Rapinoe has been fighting for equal pay in a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation and is outspoken about the current political climate. She called out President Donald Trump during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper for excluding whole groups of Americans, and challenged him to do better.
“Your message is excluding people. You're excluding me, you're excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you're excluding Americans that maybe support you," Rapinoe said when asked if she had a message for the president.
“You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone," Rapinoe added.
While some Americans believe that professional athletes like Rapinoe and Colin Kaepernick don’t have the right or place to express their political beliefs, fans at the parade believe that they’ve earned it.
“They’ve worked their way to get these platforms and she’s worked her whole life to get here and is a great soccer player,” said 18-year-old fan Shannon Pruzinsky, who was wearing a black shirt that read “world champions.”
“She’s built this platform for herself and obviously she’s strong in how she feels and should use her platform to share their opinions, because I think it’s going to help people to share their opinions too,” Pruzinsky added.
At the crowning ceremony held at New York City Hall, Rapinoe called on every single person to take “responsibility to make this world a better place.”
“It’s every single person’s responsibility. There’s been so much contention in these last years. I’ve been a victim of that. I’ve been a perpetrator of that ... But it’s time to come together,” Rapinoe said to the crowd, with a bold blue banner that read “One Nation. One Team” hanging overhead.
“I think this team does an incredible job of taking that on our shoulders and understanding the position that we have and the platform that we have within this world. Yes, we play sports. Yes, we play soccer. Yes, we’re female athletes. But we’re so much more than that. You’re so much more than that.”
Megan Rapinoe has done it again. What. A. Speech. She is the most inspiring example of fearlessness, of compasssion, of conviction, of so much that is good and strong. There’s not enough standing ovations for her and the entire USWNT.
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) July 10, 2019
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