“I’m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren today, for being bold, for being real, for listening to ALL of us, and for being prepared to navigate the unique challenges we face today as a country,” Rapinoe tweeted on Friday afternoon. It’s a message that could resonate with her 900,000+ Twitter followers and many others who take her stances — most prominently when it comes to equal pay for women — seriously.
One of those people taking Rapinoe’s endorsement to heart? Warren, of course. “Megan is a champion of justice on and off the field and a role model for women and girls everywhere,” the US senator from Massachusetts and leading presidential candidate said in a statement sent to me by her campaign. “I am honored to have her endorsement, and look forward to fighting alongside her for big, structural change.”
Rapinoe’s tweet also included video of a phone call between the two women in which the senator thanked the soccer star for her support. “You both lead your team on the field, but you also help lead America off the field,” Warren said. Rapinoe replied that she’d been following Warren’s campaign closely and believes that “it’s amazing. It’s big, it’s bold.”
I truly believe the best things in life are a result of being bold and being real. I’m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren today, for being bold, for being real, for listening to ALL of us, and for being prepared to navigate the unique challenges we face today as a country @ewarren pic.twitter.com/9hX3gQYjvo— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) December 13, 2019
It’s unclear how much effect the endorsement from Rapinoe — who, along with her teammates, earned 2019 Athlete of the Year honors from Time Magazine, as well as Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year award — will have on voters.
A 2018 article published in the Journal of Political Marketing, titled “The Effects of Celebrity Endorsements of Ideas and Presidential Candidates,” suggests the resonance of Rapinoe’s message will mainly depend on who hears it. “Celebrities with whom the public is merely familiar but not favorable toward may have a negative effect, while celebrities who are viewed favorably consistently have positive effects,” David Jackson, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University, wrote.
What is clear, though, is that the soccer star has no problem using her platform to speak out on political and social issues she cares about.
Rapinoe is a soccer star. She’s also an important voice on political and social issues.
The US women’s national team, which won the World Cup in France this past summer, was a uniquely political force during the tournament.
The squad’s 28 players sued the United States Soccer Federation in March, alleging that they are paid less than their counterparts on the US men’s national team, even though they win more games and bring in more money.
According to the lawsuit, a top-tier women’s player could earn as little as 38 percent of what a top-tier men’s player makes in a year, representing a gap of $164,320. That pay gap closed a bit with a new collective bargaining agreement reached in 2017, but the players still say they’re paid unfairly. A trial is now scheduled for May 2020, but in the meantime, Rapinoe continues to lead the charge and speak up on the issue.
Rapinoe also received worldwide attention during the World Cup for saying (with the help of some colorful language) that she wouldn’t go to the White House if the US team won.
Her comments drew President Donald Trump’s ire:
Women’s soccer player, @mPinoe, just stated that she is “not going to the F...ing White House if we win.” Other than the NBA, which now refuses to call owners, owners (please explain that I just got Criminal Justice Reform passed, Black unemployment is at the lowest level...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2019
....invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose. Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2019
The US, of course, did end up winning, and Rapinoe has since gone on to win multiple individual awards, including the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year award. And the White House sent the team a private invitation to a celebratory reception, according to Sports Illustrated, but players refused to attend.
Now, it seems, Rapinoe is once again on a collision course with the White House as she publicly backs one of Trump’s top challengers — which means it’s only a matter of time before he tweets again. And if he does, it will help solidify Rapinoe as someone with an outsized say on US politics, whether she wants that responsibility or not.