Megan Rapinoe isn’t one to shy away from the media. She has openly discussed everything from her opposition to President Trump to her cultural beliefs to her relationship with WNBA star Sue Bird as the spotlight on her has intensified before, during and after this summer’s World Cup.
Now the 34-year-old U.S. soccer star has opened up again about another subject that hits close to home. In an extensive interview with the Guardian published Saturday, Rapinoe discussed how her political and cultural beliefs play into her relationship with her more conservative family — including her father, who she thinks voted for Trump.
“I feel like I grew up with all of these lessons [about equality], but nothing was ever spoken,” Rapinoe said when asked if she was raised in a political household. “No language was ever put around it. Both of my parents should be really progressive — especially my mom — and I don’t get that they’re not. I’m always saying: ‘You guys should really be Democrats!’ But they’re not, so what’s happening?
“I’m very similar to how they are, even though I think my dad voted for Trump and I’ll say: ‘I don’t get it. How are you simultaneously as proud as punch of me and watching Fox News all the time, [when they are doing] takedowns of your daughter?’ That’s why I’m like, ‘You guys need to go to therapy.’ “
Though her beliefs may differ from those of her parents, Rapinoe has been vocal about the support she has received from her family. She counts mother Denise, twin sister Rachael and older brother Brian — a former member of a white supremacist group who is incarcerated and in a reentry program in California — as major inspirations for her work on and off the field.
As for politics, Rapinoe said she has opened up a family dialogue.
“There’s been some major blow-ups. There’s definitely been some dust-ups,” Rapinoe said. “I’m very close to my family. It’s not like, ‘Ugh, I’m from a conservative town, and I never talk to them anymore.’ I talk to my parents all the time, every day. And I feel like I have seen progress and growth. I would love it if people understood you should never say racist things and [you should] be okay with gay people, or whatever it is. But, obviously, it doesn’t happen that quickly.”
Squaring her parents’ more traditionally conservative beliefs with her own liberal ones, including what Rapinoe describes as an easy acceptance of her own sexuality, is something the native Californian has been navigating for more than a decade.
Rapinoe said when she first came out in college her parents were worried she was making life harder for herself.
“At one point, my mom was telling all her work friends: ‘Oh, my daughters’ — because my sister is gay, too — ‘Oh, the twins are gay, blah blah blah,’ ” Rapinoe said. “Meanwhile, their kids were dropping out of high school and having drug problems and doing all these crazy things, and they were like: ‘You don’t have any problems! All your kids are amazing. They’re doing sport and getting their college paid for and doing great.’ “
Rapinoe counts gay rights as one of the many issues she feels it is her duty to speak about publicly. The soccer star was at the forefront of the current wave of athlete activism when she took a knee during the playing of the national anthem in 2016 to show solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and she has been open about taking advantage of the crush of attention on the U.S. women’s soccer team this summer to bring further light to its battle for equal pay.
She also understands why she and the U.S. national team’s activism gets the attention it does.
“Traditionally, we’re very cute and white,” Rapinoe said, before contrasting the U.S. national team’s fight for equality with that of players in the WNBA. “… The Women’s Basketball Association has been fighting for all these things — but they’re gay and black, and nobody wants to talk about that.”
At the same time, Rapinoe feels she and her teammates on the national team are part of a larger cultural, social and political movement that extends beyond this summer.
“I feel like we can see the world changing around us and we’re a huge part of that, effecting that change,” Rapinoe said.
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