How Meghan Rapinoe has found herself at centre of controversy
The US sportswoman who even tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios thinks is ‘diabolically arrogant’: From ignoring young fan, equal pay row and laughing at her own missed penalty, how footballer Meghan Rapinoe has found herself at centre of controversy
She has established herself as one of the greatest female footballers of all time, winning the Ballon d’Or and guiding the United States to both World Cup and Olympic glory.
But Megan Rapinoe has also regularly been at the centre of controversy throughout her glittering career.
Whether that’s public spats with former President Trump, her backing of trans athletes competing in women’s sport, or apparent aloof behaviour off the pitch, she has seldom been far from the headlines.
This tournament alone, she was slammed for laughing after missing a crucial penalty and was accused of ‘poisoning’ the minds of her teammates by not singing their country’s national anthem before matches.
Even Australia’s ‘bad boy of tennis’ Nick Kyrgios backed claims from critics that she was ‘diabolically arrogant’ when footage re-emerged this week of her not making eye contact with a young fan wanting her autograph.
Megan Rapinoe laughed to herself after she missed a crucial penalty for the USA vs. Sweden
The star ruffled feathers with her antics while celebrating the USA’s World Cup win in 2019
The 38-year-old, a central part of the USA sides that won the 2015 and 2019 World Cups as well as Olympic gold in 2012, is at the tournament for the fourth and final time before retiring.
She was a key voice in the team’s battle with the US federation for equal pay and conditions and remains an unflinching advocate on racial equality, as well as issues affecting women and the LGBTQ community.
Asked if she would welcome a player born biologically male onto the national team, she told Time magazine earlier this year: ‘Absolutely.
”You’re taking a ‘real’ woman’s place,’ that’s the part of the argument that’s still extremely transphobic. I see trans women as real women.
‘What you’re saying automatically in the argument—you’re sort of telling on yourself already—is you don’t believe these people are women. Therefore, they’re taking the other spot. I don’t feel that way.
‘It’s particularly frustrating when women’s sports is weaponized,’ she continued.
‘Oh, now we care about fairness? Now we care about women’s sports? That’s total bulls***.
‘And show me all the trans people who are nefariously taking advantage of being trans in sports. It’s just not happening.’
Trans athletes aren’t necessarily a new phenomenon in America, but the success of swimmer Lia Thomas ignited a global debate among athletes, fans, officials, and even politicians.
To Rapinoe, the debate risks alienating a marginalised group, and she went so far as to call out comedian Dave Chappelle and tennis legend Martina Navratilovafor controversial comments they’ve made about transgender people.
Footage re-emerged this week of her not making eye contact with a young fan wanting her autograph
For so long the face of women’s football at home and abroad, she was close to tears in her post-match interview after a 5-4 penalty shoot-out defeat to Sweden, which saw her team crash out of the tournament.
‘I mean, this is like a sick joke,’ she said. ‘For me personally, this is dark comedy. I missed a penalty.’
Trump, who is running for a White House return in the 2024 election, wrote on his own TruthSocial website that the loss was ‘fully emblematic of what is happening to the our once great Nation under Crooked Joe Biden.’
‘Many of our players were openly hostile to America – No other country behaved in such a manner, or even close. Woke equals failure,’ he wrote.
‘Nice shot Megan,’ he added, in a jibe at Rapinoe, who said back in 2019 that she would not visit the White House if they became world champions.
When they did reach the pinnacle of the international game, the player caused a stir with her celebrations on an open-top bus parade, shouting ‘I deserve this!’ at the camera as she paraded the trophy.
Earlier this tournament, pundit Megyn Kelly blamed the co-captain for the majority of the team not singing the national anthem, even when she wasn’t on the pitch herself.
‘Megan Rapinoe, she’s the leader of all this… She’s not a starter. So that’s why she’s not on camera when they’re doing the national anthem, but she’s behind a lot of this.
‘She’s poisoned the entire team against the country for which they play. I don’t know about you, but I’m not rooting for them. I’m not with them. I hope they lose…It’s shameful. These girls are shameful. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.’
Rapinoe was accused of ‘poisoning’ the minds of her teammates by not singing their country’s national anthem before matches
Rapinoe brought the curtain down this month on an international career that saw her score 63 goals in 202 games for her country
Then this week, Rapinoe was slammed online when footage re-emerged of her refusing to interact with at a young fan as she signed a football at the EPSY awards in Los Angeles in 2019.
In the viral video, which has amassed over 2.7m views, the fan is seen handing Rapinoe a football to sign.
As she autographed the ball, the star failed to interact with or make any eye contact with the youngster at all – who stood nervously in front of her.
At one point, Rapinoe – who was dressed in a black tuxedo jacket – turns to speak to another guest walking up the aisle.
She then hands the boy back his ball without looking in his direction or appearing to saying anything to him at all.
Resharing the video with his 8.5m followers, Piers Morgan – who previously blasted the ‘cocky’ US team – fumed: ‘Doesn’t even look at him. Diabolical arrogance.’
Tennis star Nick Kyrgios then replied: ‘Hahahahaha one thing me and Piers agree on.’
Rapinoe brought the curtain down this month on an international career that saw her score 63 goals in 202 games for her country.
President Biden’s wife, First Lady Jill Biden, offered the team more consolation than Trump did.
‘Today, you inspired us with your grit and determination. We are proud of you,’ she tweeted.
‘Always remember that you encourage women and girls everywhere to show up and fight for their dreams.’
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