Best FIFA Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe calls on others to use platform for change

Megan Rapinoe, who was instrumental in leading the USA to its second straight Women's World Cup, won the award as the Best FIFA Women's Player of 2019, beating out teammate Alex Morgan, and said other athletes need to follow her lead in using their platform to promote change.

“I ask everyone here, lend your platform to other people, share your success," said Rapinoe at the FIFA awards ceremony in Milan. "We have a unique opportunity to use this game to actually change the world for the better. I hope you take that to heart, do something, we have incredible power in this room."

Rapinoe is the fourth American to win the FIFA's women's award after Mia Hamm in 2001 and 2002, Abby Wambach in 2012 and Carli Lloyd in 2015 and 2016. She used her speech to call out racism and homophobia in soccer and pay inequality.

“Some of the stories that inspired me this year, Raheem Sterling and [Kalidou] Koulibaly, their incredible performance on the field and their reaction to the disgusting racism they have to take," she said. “If we really want to have meaningful change, if everyone other than Sterling or Koulibaly was outraged, if everyone was outraged by the homophobia. We have such an incredible opportunity being professional footballers, so much success, an incredible platform."

Sterling and Koulibaly were the targets of racial abuse in the last year. Koulibaly plays for Napoli in Italy, where there have been repeated incidents of racist chants aimed at players of color and soccer authorities have downplayed them. On Sunday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino called out the recent episodes of racism in Italian soccer as unacceptable.

“Gianni was stealing a little bit of my thunder," said Rapinoe. "All of a sudden he’s a social activist. [He talked] about a lot of the issues, which is amazing. I think we as a team and me personally are pushing Gianni to be more involved, and everyone in that room.”

Rapinoe said she was also inspired by others.

“The young Iranian woman [Sahar Khodayari] who eventually set herself on fire because she wasn't able to go to the game," she added. "The one out MLS player [Collin] Martin and the countless other female out LGBTQ players who fight so hard every day to a) just play the sport they love but b) to fight the rampant homophobia that we have."

Rapinoe was vocal during the recent World Cup to call out the pay inequality in soccer, the subject of an ongoing lawsuit between women's national team players and U.S. Soccer, and the second-class treatment of women's soccer.

For the first time, the women's awards followed the men's awards -- Lionel Messi was named Player of the Year and Jurgen Klopp won the Coach of the Year -- a move that was not overlooked by Rapinoe.

“Those are little subtle nods but those mean a lot when in past awards shows we haven’t even been here or been represented,” she said. “At certain times, if the men’s World Cup is on, we probably shouldn’t go last and that’s OK. I think catering to both in a way that elevates each sport when it’s at its highest is really special.”

Infantino has called for greater investment in women's soccer -- doubling the amount FIFA spends over the next four years to $1 billion -- though Rapinoe says that doesn't tell the proper story.

“Yeah, I’m not happy yet," she said, but I do feel like things are changing, for sure. With the doubling of the prize money, the gap actually grew between this World Cup and the last World Cup. ‘Double’ sounds fancy and nice but we need a little bit more structure around the way that we are increasing things. A lot of eyes were opened up this summer to the potential of the women’s game.”

Photo: Sportimage/Imago/Icon Sportswire

10 comments about "Best FIFA Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe calls on others to use platform for change".
  1. beautiful game, September 24, 2019 at 11:25 a.m.

    Infantino is a fraud...talks about reforms and doesn't do the walk. Rapinoe deserved the honor, best player on the USWNT. 

  2. Peter Bechtold replied, September 24, 2019 at 12:45 p.m.

    Really, best player ? I guess that, chacun a son gout, everyone to their own taste, is good.
    For me, Rapinoe was not among the top three on the USWNT. In addition, she sat out two matches; most of her goals were penalties--well taken.
    For her club team FC Reign she has been absent more than any other member of USWNT for their respective teams.
    What I believe is that she was chosen for her activism and the pressure that this has generated.

  3. John Polis replied, September 24, 2019 at 12:57 p.m.

    Best player, no chance. 

  4. R2 Dad replied, September 24, 2019 at 5:12 p.m.

    On a team that often struggled for creativity, MR usually provided it. Maybe not best player, but she has more of what our ladies will need going forward from the Ellis era--too bad she's at the end of her career.

  5. Ginger Peeler, September 24, 2019 at 3:10 p.m.

    I believe it was Alexi Lalas who said “never apologize for being good.”  And Megan Rapinoe is very, very good. She has irritated some people by failing to show humility. Years ago there was a very talented young athlete who had the audacity to tell people he was the greatest in his sport: Cassius Clay (later known as Mohammad Ali). But it was the truth!!!  Just as he would (correctly) predict the outcome of his fights, so Megan predicted her World Cup play. Both were athletes who understood exactly what they were capable of, stating it publicly, and then backing up their words with their performances. Congratulations, Megan!

  6. uffe gustafsson, September 24, 2019 at 5:50 p.m.

    To be a great player as in rapino, you not only have to show it on the field, but very importantly be a leader for your team. I bet if you ask any of the women on the team who is the leader, rapino would be named every time. Yes there where other outstanding players, Julia Ertz both center backs as well the right back.
    that defense line is the best in the world.

  7. John Kukitz, September 24, 2019 at 9:03 p.m.

    BS, Sam Kerr is so much better.  Too bad that politics and political correctness trump reality.

  8. Michael Saunders, September 24, 2019 at 10:22 p.m.

    Awards in sports and even HOF candidates are often controversial. Usually it stems from the internal bias of those casting their vote as we abundantly saw in the Best Player Award.

    Yet as a player, the one MVP award, or the like, that is most cherished is when one is chosen by their peers. In the FIFAPro Top XI, 55 players made the shortlist by which the Top XI were chosen by position.. These votes came from players worldwide; 3500, to be exact. The Top 3 Players chosen for the forward line were: (1) Morgan (2) Rapinoe and (3) Marta ......

    Personally, I would have thought it was a toss up for the third forward (afer Morgan & Pinoe) among Kerr #8, Hegerberg #4 & Harder #10 rather than Marta. Frankly, while I have considerable respect for Marta, and have been in awe for years of her abilities, this past football year was not deserving of being selected. I believe that even among world players, reputation often rules the choice made. Moreover, the WC pitted the "best against the best" for the most part, something that OL truly does not face in the French League, and barely has any real competition in the Champions League. Indeed, OL I consider to be the "Real Madrid of WoSo". And let's face it

    Kerr had a poor WC which I attribute to the coaching fiasco with Australia. Hegerberg & Harder did not play in the WC. Like I said toss up.





  9. Bob Ashpole, September 25, 2019 at 10:13 a.m.

    FIFA doesn't select the winner. Select media, national team coaches and team captains vote for the player who had the best performance in that year.

    It is a popularity contest of sorts, but it isn't political, and fans and national federations don't vote.

  10. John Foust, October 2, 2019 at 4:27 p.m.

    I'm amused at this men-vs-women debate in light of the ongoing hysteria on gender in society these days.  How does one reconcile pay equality between 63 different gender options, or whatever the current made-up categorizations are?  Will a "trans woman" ever make the USWNT?  Will that be at the expense of someone who was born female?  Will we ever just can the notion of gender-specific teams and make it as purely non-discriminatory as possible - one team, everyone competes for a spot on the roster regardless of gender, sex, race, etc.?  I chuckle when I consider the circular logic and reasoning (or lack thereof) around it all, and will just enjoy the game as it's played - hopefully well - by whomever is on the pitch :)

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