Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
American World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe won Best FIFA Women’s Player on Monday and used her acceptance speech to address issues including racism, homophobia and sexism.
The midfielder was a key player for the U.S.A. during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, scoring enough goals to get the Golden Boot and co-captaining her team to the tournament title.
After receiving the player of the year award and thanking her friends, family, coaches and fellow players, Rapinoe drew attention to the battle for equal pay, hate towards LGBTQ players, footballers Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly’s anti-racism campaigns, and Sahar Khodayari, who died trying to get into a soccer stadium in Iran because women are not permitted to attend games.
Rapinoe credited the stories for inspiring her, but also stated they make her sad and disappointed.
“If we really want to have meaningful change, and what I find most inspiring, would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly was as outraged about racism as they were,” said Rapinoe during her speech. “If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ players. If everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack of it, or the lack of investment in the women’s game other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me.”
For a long time, especially this past summer during and following the World Cup, Rapinoe has taken full advantage of her platform and privilege to make people aware of bigotry in sport. On Monday she encouraged fellow professional athletes to do the same.
“We have such an incredible opportunity being professional football players,” said Rapinoe. “I ask everyone here: lend your platform to other people, lift other people up, share your success.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino also used Monday’s stage to speak out against racist incidents that happened in European football games throughout the year, as well as Khodayari’s tragedy. Infantino said FIFA will ensure women are allowed to enter the next Iranian national team match for the first time in history. He also pledged to further the women’s game.
“Women’s football is not women’s football,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “It’s football. It’s played with passion. It’s played with heart. It makes all of our hearts beat as well. We will make sure that women’s football is side by side with men’s football at all levels.”
By the end of this year’s World Cup, FIFA upped the prize money to $1 billion for the women’s tournament, and prize money will double.