United States Women's National Team star Megan Rapinoe's name dominated headlines around the world during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, and not just because of her award-winning performance.
After a video circulated late last month of the 34-year-old saying she wouldn't go "to the f--king White House" if the USWNT lifted the trophy in France, President Donald Trump scolded Rapinoe in a series of tweets. He tweeted that Rapinoe should "[win] first before she [talks]," and the winger proceeded to score three more goals at the tournament en route to winning every possible individual and team award in front of her.
Rapinoe was the tournament's highest scorer (Golden Boot) with six goals, named its best player (Golden Ball) and won her second consecutive World Cup title.
"Yeah, I held up my end of the bargain on that one," Rapinoe told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap on Tuesday. "I mean, honestly, I see [the Twitter exchange] as a positive thing. I think when it was happening, we did keep a really tight bubble and the whole group was so supportive of me but it did feel positive, in a way. Obviously, I think the tweets were negative in tone as he usually does, but I think we just even moreso in that moment realized we're so much more than what we are on the field. And I think this team really understands, and is so prideful that we do carry with us other people when we step out on the pitch.
"It's the game of course, and we wanna win. But knowing the impact we have already had, and knowing the impact we were gonna have when we came home, the motivation of just that alone is incredible, and I really feel like we do this for our group ... and for everyone."
Rapinoe, who is openly gay, has long been an advocate for social change. In 2016, she became the first white athlete to kneel during the playing of the national anthem in solidarity with then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest of racial inequality and police brutality in the United States. She also kneeled while wearing a national team uniform, prompting U.S. Soccer to institute Policy 604-1 which mandates players "representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented."
Along with 27 other USWNT players, Rapinoe is a plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing U.S. Soccer of "institutionalized gender discrimination" in how they have been paid and treated compared to the men's national team. Last month, the two sides agreed to mediation but Rapinoe remained critical of how global soccer body FIFA treats women players, noting that president Gianni Infantino's pledge to double the women's World Cup prize pool money would still leave a large gap with the men.
Above all else, Rapinoe says she and her teammates value inclusivity.
"I think that we always want to try to bring more people into the conversation," Rapinoe continued. "We want to have the conversation. We want to open it up to everyone. I think, obviously, we are very lucky to wear the shirt and represent America in a way no team really does. We're very lucky. We play all kinds of games all year long, and I think that we do an incredible job of representing every American."
Rapinoe and the rest of the USWNT will celebrate their second consecutive World Cup crown with a parade Wednesday in New York City.
Why USWNT's Megan Rapinoe sees Donald Trump Twitter feud as positive originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area