Megan Rapinoe and Colin Kaepernick: The two who don't play it safe

"I wouldn't be here without you," US women's soccer star Megan Rapinoe said as a tribute to to American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Published : Nov 17, 2019 20:33 IST

''Lend your platform to others," Megan Rapinoe urged as she thanked Colin Kaepernick for inspiring her to speak up.
''Lend your platform to others," Megan Rapinoe urged as she thanked Colin Kaepernick for inspiring her to speak up.

''Lend your platform to others," Megan Rapinoe urged as she thanked Colin Kaepernick for inspiring her to speak up.

How does the old adage go again? "Behind every successful man is a woman". The world of sport saw this old chestnut turn on its head when Megan Rapinoe took to another stage to collect yet another award. The first on her list of people to thank being a man — Colin Kaepernick.

2019 has well and truly been the year the world woke up to the Rapinoe phenomenon. The US women's soccer team star's exploits in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France caught global imagination. Rapinoe, 34, was the oldest woman to score in a World Cup final and she won the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball. She was also adjudged FIFA Woman Player of the Year, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Lionel Messi as the best player in the world this year.

Along the way, the outspoken Rapinoe also ruffled a few feathers with her comments about US President Donald Trump and her stand that she would not go to the White House should the team win the World Cup. The team won. The White House invitation never came.

READ : USWNT star Megan Rapinoe accepts AOC invite to House of Representatives

She added another award to that list this month, when Glamour  named her Woman of the Year. Before proceeding to use her platform to highlight the causes she was championing, this time, she started a little differently.

"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," said the midfielder.

Speaking about the spotlight she finds herself in, Rapinoe suggested a shift in focus to the real issue that needs attention. "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."

In 2016, Kaepernick began kneeling for pre-game playings of the US national anthem as a way of protesting against racial inequality and social injustice. He opted out of his 49ers contract for free agency in 2017, but found no takers.

"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," Rapinoe added.

In 2016, Rapinoe followed Kaepernick's example when she knelt during the national anthem before a National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) clash between the Seattle Reign and Chicago Red Stars.

"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties," she said at the time.

Fast forward to 2019. Although a little different in style, the defiance remained. After the United States Soccer Federation passed a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem and so she chose to stand in silence, no sign of hand over heart.

"I've been ready for three years. I have been denied for three years. We all know why"

Kaepernick has now spent three years away from NFL action. On Sunday, the League arranged a private workout at the Atlanta Falcons' training facility, inviting all 32 clubs to assess him. The 32-year-old however did a number on the organisers changing the venue to Charles R Drew High School in Riverdale at 30 minutes notice.

“I came out here to show you in front of everybody we have nothing to hide,” Kaepernick said. “I've been ready. I'm staying ready. I continue to be ready," he said after the session.

“We're waiting for 32 owners, 32 teams, (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running, stop running from the truth and stop running from the people. We are ready to play, ready to go anywhere," Kaepernick added.

READ : Colin Kaepernick snubs private NFL workout for public session

Rapinoe's felicitation was five days before Kaepernick would make this statement — almost a reaffirmation of why he's on her list of people to thank.

In her words: "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."

While she had championed the LGBTQ cause, she understands the race privilege. "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."

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