Megan Rapinoe

A Salute to Megan Rapinoe

Former Curve Sports Editor Lyndsey D’Arcangelo pays tribute to the out sporting legend who announced that the 2023 World Cup would be her last major tournament, and that she would retire from professional soccer at the end of the year.

I still remember the first time I interviewed Megan Rapinoe.

I had just started dabbling in sports writing, interviewing out lesbian athletes from all walks of sports for Curve magazine. In 2013, coming out was still a big thing — especially for athletes and celebrities. When my editor, Merryn Johns, asked me if I’d love to write a cover story on Rapinoe that spring, I said yes before she finished the request.

I was 35, dividing my time between being a stay-at-home parent and freelancing. The cover story would be my second (Jackie Warner from Bravo’s Workout was my first) for Curve. Rapinoe was 28, fresh off a gold medal finish at the 2012 Olympics in London with the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT). She had recently come out in July 2012 and was a rising star on the pitch, with her savvy play, elaborate goal celebrations, and her famous last-second cross to Abby Wambach for a game-tying header in the quarterfinals of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Rapinoe was becoming one of the most recognizable names and faces in women’s soccer, just as the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was getting ready to launch. As a freelancer building up my name and portfolio, I knew the story would be a boon to my resume.

What I didn’t know was just how memorable our conversation would be.

Rapinoe was a professional athlete who had a national platform. And yet, she was as candid and friendly as if we were buddies. She had no qualms about discussing a wide array of topics, from her close relationship with her family and twin sister, Rachel, to the importance and value of coming out as a professional athlete, and to the necessary evolution and investment in women’s soccer.

“I live my life in the public eye,” she told me. “And I live pretty openly, through social media and who I am as a person. I think it’s important to put it out there, to be honest about who you really are.”

Volume 23#2 March 2013

At the time, Instagram was still in its infancy, Twitter had yet to drive the “what’s trending” conversation on a daily basis and Facebook was much more popular than it is now. But putting herself out there, being real and authentic about who she was, and being open about her sexuality, was still a big deal. In today’s social landscape, it’s to forget just how bold and brave that was. But it stood out to me.

As gay person who also loves sports, I not only appreciated Rapinoe stepping through that door to make it easier for a younger generation of LGBTQ+ athletes to cross the same threshold swiftly and without pause—I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and respect for her. It would have made all the difference in the world to me as a closeted kid in the 1990s to have someone of her stature say, “Yeah, I’m gay. No biggie.”

Rapinoe didn’t stop there. She went on to make numerous impactful statements throughout her career regarding social justice issues, including kneeling for the National Anthem in support and solidarity with Colin Kaepernick in 2016. She fought for equal pay for the USWNT and women’s sports as a whole, and has spoken out loudly and purposefully about trans rights both in society and in sports.

I haven’t even touched upon what Rapinoe has accomplished on the soccer field. She is a two-time World Cup winner, an Olympic gold and bronze medalist, and was named the 2019 FIFA Player of the Year. Rapinoe has also been a key member of the NWSL’s OL Reign  (Seattle) since 2013.

It has been a full decade since I spoke to Rapinoe that first time. So much has changed in both of our lives, in the world, and in professional sports. The NWSL is thriving, garnering record viewership and attendance, and has expanded to 12 with two more franchises joining the league in 2024. Women’s sports in general are experiencing an overwhelming amount of support, rise in viewership numbers, and groundbreaking investment. Me? I’m still a sports reporter, covering the WNBA and women’s college basketball (among other things).

As for Rapinoe, her platform has since extended around the globe and she will go down in history as one of the best and most-decorated women’s soccer players of all time. Her last home game with the OL Reign was the most-watched game in league history. Rapinoe may be retiring from the USWNT at the end of this year, and will put a final exclamation point on her storied soccer career as the NWSL season comes to a close. But anyone who knows Rapinoe and what she’s about knows she’s not about to fade into the background and disappear. Not a chance.

She’ll be visible at numerous women’s sporting events. She’ll be actively involved in her production company, A Touch More, which she formed with her fiance and WNBA legend, Sue Bird in December 2022. She’ll remain vocal about trans rights. She’ll lend her platform to social justice causes. She’ll appear on podcasts and television broadcasts, talking soccer and so much more. And she’ll remain as entertaining, bold and colorful as ever in everything she does, from her (brightly dyed) hair down to her toes.

Like she told me once back in 2013, “It’s just who I am.”

About Lyndsey D’Arcangelo

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo writes about women’s college basketball and the WNBA for The Athletic and Just Women’s Sports. Her articles, columns and profiles on female/LGBTQ+ athletes have previously appeared in The Ringer, Deadspin, espnW/ESPN, Teen Vogue, The Buffalo News, The Huffington Post, NBC OUT and more. She received a Notable Mention in the 2018 Best American Sports Writing anthology for her story, “My Father, Trump and The Buffalo Bills.” Lyndsey has previously published three young adult LGBTQ+ books, one of which won a Golden Crown Literary Society Award for Debut author. She currently lives in Buffalo, NY.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo