In June, a video of Megan Rapinoe — the co-captain of the United States women’s national soccer team — went viral. In it, she tells an interviewer from Eight by Eight magazine that even if her team won the World Cup, “I’m not going to the fucking White House.”
On the latest (and 400th) episode of Recode Decode, Rapinoe told Kara Swisher that, one World Cup championship trophy later, she’s still not planning to go there, unless she’s being “inaugurated.” She also recalled how she found out about the video’s internet fame, which led President Donald Trump to accuse her of disrespecting her country, exhorting Rapinoe to “WIN first before she TALKS!”
“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, he tweeted you!’” she said. “One of our media people sent me a text ... [and] I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve done something. I’ve done something bad.’ I don’t follow him. And I went on Twitter and looked at it and I was like, ‘This is crazy. I mean, what is going on? This is so insane.’ And we’re like, ‘We’re going to win. So this is not going to age well.’”
“And I was also like, ‘You know what? This is so rude,’” Rapinoe added. “You should be proud, like doing everything you can or not doing anything, right? To make this team successful. People are getting on board. It’s the World Cup. It’s America. You love America. Like, ‘Go USA.’”
As fate would have it, Trump’s attacks on Rapinoe may have actually helped the US women’s team.
“I felt like it actually sort of unified the team,” she said. “Everyone was like, ‘You’re a G, Rapinoe!’ Like, ‘Get him!’ From the back of the bus. So it kind of unified everyone in that way. But I was also like, ‘You’re rude. This is rude.’”
Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Megan.
Kara Swisher: Thank you, everybody. I’m so excited for this interview. I wore my sunglasses when I just recently interviewed Pete Buttigieg, but I’m going to take them off for Megan, which I never do.
You know I’m about sunglasses.
I know you’re about sunglasses. We’re going to talk about your sunglass game and everything else, and we’re going to get questions from the audience here. Mostly we’re going to have these kids ask the questions. Let’s start off talking about confidence and we’ll get to the game and everything else.
One of the things you said that really struck me, which was a quote that you had, is, “I deserve this. I want everything.” It was a great quote that you had, which I thought was an astonishing quote because when women say quotes like this, it makes people super uncomfortable. So let’s talk about confidence. Where do you get that from and how do you think it’s perceived when you say things like that?
Good question. I’m not sure exactly where I get it from. I think I’m born with it a little bit. I think I’ve been very successful in my career, so I get a lot of positive feedback in that way. I mean, I think we’re on a team that’s incredibly successful, so that’s part of it. But I think I also don’t give very many of the F words.
You can fit him in a really tiny bag. And I feel like I know my worth and I know my value, or at least what I think it is. Maybe that comes in the face of never being compensated that way and always feeling like I deserve this. I’ve earned it double and triple times over. So that’s kind of where that came from. I deserve this.
Actually, between one of my teammates and I, Ashton Harris, we were just like, “You know what? We deserve this. We deserve everything. We deserve this parade, we deserve all the champagne that people are giving us. We deserve all this shine. We’ve worked very hard for it.” A little bit in jest of course, but also I think to be that outspoken voice in the country right now, we’re not just thankful to be there, I’ve worked very hard to get there and feel like, “Yeah, I deserve it.” All right, why not?
So when you talk about that comment, it isn’t as common. It’s definitely not common in the business world as much. And it’s definitely not the case in Silicon Valley when people, especially women, stand out, it’s noticed. It’s noticed, and not in a positive way. And you have a lot of young people here, especially young girls, how do you think about that in terms of getting that into our culture? The idea of owning your space.
I think it’s owning your space, because lots of people I talked to, when I said I was going to interview you they’re like, “Well I really like her, but she was real arrogant about what she said.” And first I said, “F-U.” And then I said, “Do you think about that when you think of Michael Jordan or when you think of Steph Curry or when you think of anyone else?” And so many people were like, “I don’t. I don’t think. I allow them to do that.”
I don’t, right?
I am suddenly woke. And especially the pose that you did, how did you come up with that? Because that is a pose of ... It’s a little bit sort of gladiator, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?”
That is exactly where it came from. Not from Gladiator in particular. I actually did it one time before the World Cup, but it was in a friendly, so not massively important, but we were playing Australia and they were sort of one of the favorites in the World Cup and the game was sort of back and forth and I had scored the go-ahead goal in the game and sold-out crowd in Denver and it was that moment of like, hm! “I did this.” Obviously, the team did it, but also just like this is my moment to shine. It’s like, this is the whole point of the game is to score the goal.
But I think going back to the confidence thing, we’re extremely lucky to ... very different from other women at the top of their game or in their business. We’re with 23 or 25 other women all the time. They’re at the very pinnacle of what they do, which I think is extremely ... There’s probably nothing else like it. I think if you’re at the top of your game, there’s only one of you, or there’s maybe a couple of you in the office, or a couple of C-suites, if that. So I feel like it’s normal for us to kind of be that way and to have that confidence in that sort of take up space, because we take up so much space as a team and there are so many different personalities within that.
So I think we’re really lucky to sort of grow up in that way and not have to always be kind of the only one in the room. And I think it’s really hard to take up all of that space and to have that kind of confidence when you’re sort of the only one all the time.
The team itself, even though it’s the best and it won many years ago, has been one of the best in the world. It’s still been marginalized in a lot of ways within the sport itself. Talk a little about that now and then you’re getting all this attention now.
Yeah, it’s an amazing and frustrating existence to be on the women’s national team all at one time. We feel like it sort of goes in this kind of every-four-year cycle. Winning is the most important and the thing that makes the most difference, obviously. And obviously, winning this time, we won four years ago, but we hadn’t won the World Cup before that since ‘99 and we are still just kind of in this old system, the sort of old world. We tried to, as much as we can, push the federation as far as we can.
It’s hard as well because we’re 23 players that constantly change in and out. We’re just now in the last couple of years starting to get our players association much more robust and organized, so that helps. But it’s sort of this revolving door of players. And at certain times, you have a veteran group of players that are really good, incredible strong leaders, and then at times you don’t, and I think our progress as a team has kind of ebbed and flowed with that.
I think now we’re in a really good period where we’re very organized, coupled with really strong, powerful women in our leadership group. But it’s incredibly frustrating. It’s not really a complicated problem. I think the federation tries to make it a complicated problem all of the time.
How do they make it complicated?
Oh, they always say, “Oh, the market realities are such that you shouldn’t get paid.” Yeah, well, you’re not very good at your job, okay? So maybe you should just market the realities yourself. Whether it’s TV ratings or they want to say, “Oh, you don’t bring in as much revenue.”
Yeah. That’s the thing.
And it’s like, “Are you investing equally? Are you investing equally in the youth programs? Do we have a youth academy? Are you invested equally in coaching staff and branding and marketing and the whole thing?” So it’s like, yeah, you can say that we don’t bring in or have historically not brought in as much revenue as the men’s team, but if you’re not investing as equally, it’s so simple. But just underneath ...
Funny, it’s the same argument in tech. It’s an interesting thing that it becomes the same thing: We can’t hire women because there are not enough women and we try to hire women but they’re not there. It continues to be the same thing.
Yeah, it’s not a difficult equation.
Let’s talk first about the game itself, and then I want to figure out what would you want to do to fix ...
Yeah. There was that.
Where was that? Let’s talk about the game.
There was a game.
Talk a little bit about that. Just what are your highlights from that experience?
From the whole tournament?
Oh, man. I mean, seeing Roosevelt’s score in the final, big highlight for me. She was phenomenal the whole time. All of the younger players really, all the ones that’d never been there before, just to see the joy that they had and the way that they performed was a big highlight. It felt like it was a home World Cup yet again. Canada felt like that as well. Red, white, and blue everywhere. With the exception of the France game in Paris, which was an incredible atmosphere, every game felt like a home game, which is really nice to be overseas and to have that kind of support. I scored lots of goals. That was fun. The team scored lots of goals. That was fun. Actually, lots of goals happened and we scored in every game.
Talking about how you do that, besides being wildly talented in sports. And this is some ... Trust me when I tell you, I’m not the best at sports-ball. I literally am the only lesbian who is not a great liker of sports, but I can see talent ...
Until now. Yes, actually, until now I really wasn’t that interested and then someone’s like, “Oh, this Megan Rapinoe is great.” I’m like, “All right. Oh, I like her hair.” That’s how it went. And I like you saying you love yourself and I like your arm thing and I said, “I understand power politics, I love this. This is fantastic.” But how do you do ... I mean, I know how I get things. How do you get things when you’re an athlete like this, a high-performance athlete? What do you think sets you apart?
Good question. I think everyone at this level is incredible. The differences are so small. I think confidence is a big thing. Just believing in yourself all the time and that ... not necessarily that you’re better than everyone else. I don’t like really the comparing game. I think that’s kind of a slippery slope. But just knowing that you’re great and believing in yourself in that way. Staying physically in the best shape that you possibly can is incredibly important, so you’re always available for selection. You can always play.
How much do you work out a day when you’re ...
Last 10 days, zero. It’s kind of a scene, actually, like, I should stretch or do something, but I haven’t had time.
I’m not making you feel guilty, but ...
No, it’s bad.
... you don’t have to.
A lot, though. At least two, two-and-a-half hours a day with sort of prehab, rehab, the training, all of that. And then the recovery piece, obviously. We call naps and massages work. So it’s part of my normal daily job. And then, I don’t know, I guess the mental side as well. I think that that’s really important. I think athletes get inside their head a lot, especially when you’re in a team sport, it’s easy to compare to a lot of other people. So just keeping yourself sharp and sort of grounded and understanding that you’re never going to be the best at every single thing. Just be the best at the one thing that no one else can do. So bring that.
I’m going to get this wrong, when you were doing the penalty kicks, how do you ...
Good so far.
Thank you so much. I’m going to go way down from here. But how do you get in the mindset to get it in?
Yeah, I keep a very strict routine so that helps me not think about ...
The screaming crowds and everything else.
Yeah. Everything else that’s going on. I let the crowd in, though. I’m not the kind of athlete that gets in a zone. I feel like my zone is when I’m giving a wink to the crowd for corner kick and I’m sort of aware of everything that’s going on. And sometimes a song is stuck in my head. I’m not trying to block everything out. That sounds terrifying. And then it’s just me. That’s too much.
So I try to keep the same routine every time. Normally I’m sort of knowing where I’m going before and they usually do the same thing except on the one in the final. I had a strategy session with myself in my head. I was like, “She’s really long and really good and she’s going to be able to stretch where I want to go.” And she’s also ...
This is the goalie?
Yeah. The goalie, if she’s like — goaltender. If she’s watched any film of me obviously during the World Cup, but then also even for the last three years, in most of the big moments I’ve always gone power into a certain place. And so I just feel like I’ve got to switch it up. So that all kind of went into ... And of course with the AR now, the video assistant refereeing. It was like this whole replay system. It takes forever and they have to go over to the sideline and it takes an extra five minutes to do everything.
So there’s a lot of time thinking. So I went through all that and then just try to ... I mean, I love big ... I don’t know. I don’t get that nervous in big moments. I just love it. I love the attention. Yeah. So I mean, I never think like, “Oh, what if I miss it in this moment?” I’m like, “Can’t wait to score so I can get all of this.” That’s probably really the secret behind it. Yeah.
That’s probably the secret. There it is.
I’m like, “If I do this, I get this reward. This would be great.” I love that.
Right. Okay. So speaking of attention, let’s talk about Trump. Did that help you get into the mindset like, “This guy challenged me to get these goals. I think I’m going to kick his ass.”
Oh, gosh. I mean actually, my initial reaction was like, “This is LOL. This is crazy talk.” How many national security items did you skip over? And you’re like, “Let me just tweet Megan Rapinoe.” What is that? What are you doing wrong?
Iran, North Korea.
“Southern border, all good. We’re just going to ... That’s fine. I’m going to go on this crazy tirade with weird capitals all over the place.” And challenging me.
So what did that feel like?
It was so strange.
What did that feel like? Because you were given that interview and you cursed a little bit in it and said, “I’m not going there.” It was just a one-off interview, right?
The interview was actually a couple of months before. And then someone had been holding onto that little golden nugget for a couple of months. Honestly, I don’t ... It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, he tweeted you!” Actually, someone had told me, one of our media people sent me a text that he didn’t say it in it, but I was like, “Oh, I’ve done something. I’ve done something bad.” I don’t follow him. And I went on Twitter and looked at it and I was like, “This is crazy. I mean, what is going on? This is so insane.” And we’re like, “We’re going to win. So this is not going to age well.”
So you had to win. I felt like you had to win.
We had to, yeah. We had to win. And I was also like, “You know what? This is so rude.” You should be proud, like doing everything you can or not doing anything, right? To make this team successful. People are getting on board. It’s the World Cup. It’s America. You love America. Like, “Go USA.” We’re wearing red, white, and blue. You’re super into this. And then the biggest game of the tournament, which is the biggest, not just to the date that we played, but this was going to be the biggest game. This is France-USA. This is the biggest thing and you’re heaping down this bold beep on all of us. This is ridiculous, this is so rude.
But I felt like it actually sort of unified the team. Everyone was like, “You’re a G, Rapinoe!” Like, “Get him!” From the back of the bus. So it kind of unified everyone in that way. But I was also like, “You’re rude, this is rude.”
Right. Did you think about going to the White House then?
Yeah. No, no, not unless I’m being inducted.
We’re going to get to the politics later.
No, listen, swearing in.
When you’re swearing in. We’re going to get the politics later. But when you were in that moment, it didn’t add pressure to what was going on.
No, not really. We had already had some other controversy in it. We always have lots of controversy.
Right, the hair. Your hair, for example.
Yeah, the hair and the celebrations, everything. I was already slated to do the press conference. I love a good press conference. I was actually hyped for the press conference. I’m like, “Jill, I got this. You’re good. No one wants to ask the questions.” So I just addressed it right away and it was fine. I mean, there was a little stress added, obviously that ratchets things up a whole new level. And there are all of these things that go along with being at the eye of Donald Trump.
Yeah, I want to talk about your communication style, too. But first, so within that game, what happened in the game? They were just resting you for the last game?
The one in between? The France and ...
No, actually I had a hamstring injury, so I hurt it at some point in the second half of the France game. I wasn’t able to go for the game against England. The ladies had it, full confidence, and then was able to make it back for the final.
You had to be in the final though, right?
I had to, yeah. I was actually a little nervous. I’ve done my rehab and gotten to a certain speed two days before and then pretty much full sprinted the day before. But you never really ... You can’t really get to the level that you are at in a game and training. So then the first ... Very quickly in the game, actually, I had a sprint that I had to do right in the beginning and I was kind of like, “This is either going to hold on or not.” And it was okay, so I was very thankful for that.
Good. So talk about how you look at putting yourself out. When you say you love a great press conference. You’re very good at Instagram. Your entire parade oeuvre on Instagram was quite something. The champagne, the sunglasses. How do you think about that? How do you think about marketing yourself? Because really, you’re the product in a lot of ways.
I don’t put a lot of thought in it, to be honest. I’m pretty open and transparent as a person. I would say anyone who follows me on Instagram, if they sort of were at a dinner party of mine, it would be quite similar. I mean, I think with social media, I think it’s sort of a love-hate relationship. As athletes, as people of interest or famous people or whatever, you kind of have to do it and it’s such a part of the business, and there’s real money opportunity in it, and opportunity to sort of grow yourself and your brand and raise awareness. But then again, I’m always taking a selfie, I’m like, “Do they want to see this?” But then I’m like, “They do.” They want to see it. It’s weird. It’s like, “I don’t want to see this.” And I’m like, “I don’t want to do this.”
But then, I don’t know. I feel like the Stories has been a good addition to Instagram and just being able to kind of get it out there and then let it go away a little bit. But I don’t put too much thought in it, to be honest. I try to just sort of be myself and I like to have a good time. I like to interact. I’m very social and sort of have a high capacity before I need to introvert for like one minute and then I’m back again. I don’t really think about it too much, I just sort of enjoy it.
And the parade, I was like, “You guys thought my performance in the World Cup was good, just wait until the celebrations!” To my teammates, “Get yourselves ready!”
So you planned it, you planned the celebrations?
I didn’t really plan it ... Well, like the goal celebrations?
Oh, you seem like you had every prop in place. Like the clothes, the sunglasses, the champagne.
Oh. I mean, yeah, yeah. I was just like, you’re going to be in these moments ... that was fun for me. I’m like, I know how to do this. It’s also like, in all seriousness, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. New York City shuts down for you. You can’t be a dud, you know? Can’t just wear a plain shirt. I mean, they make us wear those shirts, but you got to be ready for this.
Right. You can’t just go like this.
No, you wanted to do that ...
No. You want to show, you want people to think you’re cool and your sport’s cool and you want to change the world. You can’t be a dud.
So let’s talk about getting people to pay attention to women’s soccer. Where are we right now? You have these, if you would do that voice again of the soccer official. You’ve pushed really hard on pay equity for women. Where are you right now and what do you think needs to be done to get to it? Because those are the arguments you get whenever I tweet about you. A lot of people are like, “Well, and here’s the statistics.”
“Wow. Well, let me tell you about ... everything I don’t know about.”
Well, right now we’re in the middle of negotiating where our mediation will be and when it’ll take place. I think it’s going to be in the next couple of weeks. So that’s sort of the first step where both sides have come together and just said probably settling is a better idea than going full-on. But we’ll see where they are. Obviously things ... it’s like things have changed dramatically. We’re even in a better position than we were before, but I think that we were in a great position before that as well. I don’t think they have much of a leg to stand on in that sense, and certainly not now.
And I really don’t understand the continued fight. It’s like, where are we going in the world? Are we going more towards the side that you’re fighting us or are we not? The team is at just at an all-time popularity that far surpasses anything that sport could ever do. I don’t understand why they don’t want to attach themselves to that.
So why don’t they want to attach themselves to that?
Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, it’s like ... Even when people ask me, “What’s up with women’s sports?” Why aren’t we down with it? Is it just sexism? Is it just institutional sexism that we’re just not into? I don’t know. I honestly don’t have a great answer. I think we’ve proved time and time again we’re entertaining, we’re great role models. The national team is wildly marketable and successful and has superstars and we’re fun and we’re good and I don’t ... it’s like I don’t ... I’m at a complete loss. What about this is not ... What’s the holdup?
What’s the holdup? Rain money down on you.
Yeah. And in a way it’s like, I feel like the argument is always like, “Well, when you do this, then it’ll be worth it.” And it’s like, what kind of business operates that way without massive upfront investment? So I don’t understand. It’s like we keep reaching these benchmarks and blowing them out of the water and continually proving that without the proper investment, without equal investment, without all of these things, we’re still super profitable. I don’t understand.
What in your ideal world would you like then?
Yeah. I mean you look at the MLS, like why has the MLS been able to be so successful? They have huge pockets in their investment groups, I mean, huge. Look at what Atlanta United has done in the last couple of ... I mean, they basically built this team in five or six years and there are 70,000 people at their game every single ... It’s like people aren’t just craving soccer that much that they’re filling up these stadiums. No, they have great people working for them and they’re investing in them and they have great coaches and players and marketing and the whole thing. And Arthur Blank. Hello.
So do you think about breaking off on your own? I mean, Billie Jean King did that, didn’t work as well off the women’s circuit when they weren’t ... they did Virginia Slims, which was an unfortunate selection of sponsor as we look back on it. Try not to do ...
Yeah, that didn’t live long.
That didn’t live long. Try not to use Facebook as your sponsor this time. No, I’m teasing. How do you look at it? You need to pull off and do your own thing to prove it or you don’t have television, you don’t have what? Like what do you need?
It’s difficult, but there’s not really an option to pull off because all of the world’s game is governed by FIFA and the confederations and the individual federations. So all of the games that we play are within the FIFA dates. All of the leagues are sanctioned by FIFA. I mean, we already are basically a traveling circus, I guess we could legitimately be a traveling circus. But then you have to find the teams to play, and every federation would have to break off in order to do that.
So your option is to be loud to get this money?
And your ideal thing would be to get what? Keep the focus on it?
Keep the focus on it, yes. My ideal thing, first and foremost, would be a major paradigm shift within the federation so we can talk about compensation, we could talk about money, all of these other things. But until I think they really have a major shift in their thinking about how they’re going to approach the women’s team — how they’re going to approach both teams, to be honest — I think the business on both sides can be run far better than it is. That’s the first step, because otherwise, we’re going to keep having contention because they’re going to keep coming from this perspective that we are paid what we’re worth and we should just sort of shut up and play.
Shut up and play.
Is that what you’re all ... How does the team feel about this now? They’re going to not play or you’re going to get what you want to get?
I think that it ... well, we’re in the middle of our CVA right now. So I do believe there is a no-strike clause in there, but I mean certainly, if it ... I think it’s up in two years or two-and-a-half years. I don’t think anybody’s all that interested in continuing this fight and what’s happening right now and sort of the general disrespect and bad feelings that we have.
Do you think it’s disrespect to these players?
Yeah, very much so. I mean, to sit at a negotiation table across from somebody who’s saying, “Well, market realities,” and it’s like, hmm.
Do you do that?
That’s pretty condescending.
So what is your best argument?
Yeah, I mean it’s just ... yeah, it’s just rude, you know? Especially because we are making money. So I’m like, if you just invest more then we can make more money, then everyone can make more money. Who doesn’t want more money?
Everybody wants money. I don’t understand.
All right, let’s talk about that. What are you going to do next? Are you going to play in the next World Cup?
I do not know yet. I’m for sure going to go through next summer, which is the Olympics in Tokyo, and kind of assess after that. I’ve said for a long time and will still say, I want to play as long as I’m able and as long physically as I can and I’m enjoying it. But yeah, we’ll see.
What does that mean, physically as I can?
Like if I can keep going and keep at the level. I’m 34 now, I’ll be 35 next summer. It’s very physically demanding, the game is. And soccer’s sort of one of those sports you can’t really cheat around being old. There’s no way to kind of get smarter, way smarter, and physically get a little less.
You can lose a little bit, but it’s difficult to stay at that level all the time.
Do you know they’re working on body replacement stuff in Silicon Valley now?
Sign her up! Me.
Elon Musk wants with neural networks in the back here.
That podcast with Joe Rogen was so wild. Did you listen to it?
Yes, I did.
I was like, “Shut up,” the whole time. I was like, “When do I order my chip?” It’d be great.
What would you do with a chip?
I don’t know. What can you do with it?
Anything? Speak French, for example. I don’t know.
That would be great.
Google things way more quickly.
Google things immediately and stuff like that.
I mean, it’s terrifying.
But would you want to keep playing if you could do stuff like that?
I don’t know. It’s a lot, it’s a grind. There’s a lot of days in the hotel, a lot of time away from friends and family. A lot of time not being able to do other ... You kind of have to put everything on hold while you’re doing ... You can’t really dive into any other interests that you have sort of fully. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day. It’s not like the worst day, but especially getting older, it’s not as emotionally or intellectually stimulating as I think an adult needs at times. So that’s hard.
So what else do you want to do?
Good question. I started a company this year.
With two of my teammates and one of our former teammates.
It’s called Re-inc.
So right now we’re in clothing, it’s more like a lifestyle brand, kind of like a higher-endish lifestyle brand. We want to shape up ...
So the clothing is what? What are you trying to do that’s different than an Under Armour? You’re with Nike.
It’s not sports clothing at all. It’s a fashion brand.
Yeah. So we want to sort of break out of the sports.
And what’s the two-second elevator pitch? It’s clothing that, what?
Yeah, the two-second elevator pitch is that it’s coming from women who want to shake up the status quo. We definitely want to not just diversity inclusion, all that for the reasons, but we really want to bring our message and our style. We feel like we’ve been put in such a box with women’s sports in particular, of either you’re sort of girl-next-door, if you’re like Alex and you’re beautiful.
Or you’re like, “Oh, I’m the gay one,” you know? Even when you’re alternative it’s like, “Oh, that gay political one.” Or this is this one.
You feel sort of boxed in in a lot of ways and we never really get to bring our full selves to it.
So what’s the look of the clothes?
It’ll be a head-to-toe sweatsuit for the first one, very cool. We want to kind of give like a, not necessarily gender-neutral because that’s also a very specific look, but sort of like a palette. So we’ll have hoodies and sweatshirts and crop tops and bike shorts and shorts and tights and sweats. And it’s like, you get to pick sort of what you want for the day and sometimes you’re more ...
But it’s not necessarily ... you’re talking gender-neutral. What does that mean? Because is it androgynous? Or what are you going for?
We don’t really like to say gender-neutral or androgynous because I feel like that’s a very specific, that’s just kind of like ... sort of look like a boy a little bit.
That’s kind of what androgyny means. But I think the sweatsuit will provide you the option that if maybe one day you want to look a little bit more boyish you can, if one day you want to look a bit more girlish, you can. When if you want to mix and match then you can. We sort of give you the template. The clothes have all the template and then you get to decide how you’re feeling on that day.
So why fashion? Why did you decide to do that?
I love fashion.
Big, big fan of fashion. For me, it’s like the main way that I express myself. I mean obviously my big mouth, that helps. But the other way is you have to get up and get dressed every morning. I think clothes are just something that makes me feel good and really expresses how I’m feeling from day to day, it changes dramatically. Some days I’m like, I only wear black.
And then I’m in ... Yeah, I know. And then I’m like, I’m in a neon sweatsuit the next day and all kinds of crazy things.
I wear black because it matches.
It does. Yeah.
Black’s great. I mean, it’s not a color, someone told me, but it’s a shade.
No, it’s not. It’s not. It’s a shade.
But it’s the best color, it goes with everything.
So what else do you want to do? What else are you going to do? And then we’ll get some questions from the audience. What else do you think you want to do? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t know. Probably in New York City doing something. I definitely want to stay connected to soccer in some way. Hopefully continuing to use my voice to push things along. I can’t imagine we’ll be in the place we want to be even in 10 years. I don’t know, to be honest. Do you have any ideas for me?
I have many. There’s so many. There’s so many. Running for office.
It seems like a lot of responsibility.
A lot of like ...
But it’s such a low bar now but what ...
I have been saying, everyone’s saying like, “Oh, are you going to run for president?” And I’m like, “I am wildly unqualified.” And they’re like, “Yeah, it’s totally fine.”
No one cares.
But what about in Seattle? I got a couple of texts from people in Seattle saying they wished you would run for something there. I don’t know what.
I mean, I think for now I’m ...
Here she goes: “Everything’s about getting involved in more local Seattle politics. Not necessarily running, but we have homeless problems here and she’s extremely well informed.”
They do, major. Yeah.
Apparently, you’re extremely well informed. You don’t think politics is for you?
I don’t think it’s not for me, but I’m not sure political office is for me. I think I’m, at least at this point ... I mean, I’m very political. I want to always stay informed and stay involved and be involved in whatever way I can throw whatever weight this is around.
Do you think of yourself as an activist or not?
For ... lots of things?
Everything. Everything that’s messed up right now.
Right. What would be on the top of that list?
Oh, that’s tough.
So many to choose from.
So many to choose ... unfortunately. I mean, immigration obviously right now I think is an extremely pressing issue, what’s happening at the southern border. Our prison system and mass incarceration. I mean, it’s like once you get into one thing, it’s everything. It’s all the same sort of thing.
Who is an inspiration for you then? I mean, that piece in ESPN Magazine about your brother — speaking of incarceration — was astonishing. That was an astonishing American family. It was a really interesting story, not just about you but about your brother who’s incarcerated. Your mom seemed to me to be the hero of the story.
Can you talk about that a little bit? You obviously lived the life but a lot of people didn’t know that about you.
Yeah, I mean, I think growing up that way really helped sort of shape my worldview. Coming from a normal family, especially as I’ve gotten older and on the national team and on some level of fame, and I was never trying to hide that. I always spoke pretty openly about that. But it was just your sort of normal, quintessential family in an era when opioids were given out like candy.
And just to see him in particular, he’s so wonderful and he has a similar disposition to me. We’re actually very similar. I often see his face in the mirror. It’s really weird, like right here, it’s like these little lines. But I think to see how wonderful he is and just to see the way that he was just swept up in the system.
Opioids, white nationalism, all kinds of things.
Yeah, everything. Yeah. And to take just this normal kid and he probably just needed drug rehab and some support like that. And instead, yeah, he’s swept up in the prison system. I mean, he’s in Pelican Bay and he’s getting swastika tattoos and he’s part of the Aryan Brotherhood and feeling like he has to be violent to be important in prison and just this whole kind of course of his life. And then him sort of coming through it and realizing, “I’m in prison for the same reason that kind of everyone else is.” In a lot of ways, everyone who was sort of swept up who probably should have not even been arrested in the first place.
And I think he just realized so much of the bigger issue. And I think growing up, having that perspective and as I got older and started to understand intersectionality and realizing what all of those things mean and race relations and mass incarceration and the drug problems and all of that, it’s just like, everything is connected for me. So while I’m not a person of color, I can understand how mass incarceration affects everybody, and I can understand that the greater impact of it and how it’s not one individual that is the issue, it’s the whole system with which we live in and how it negatively affects everyone — except the Koch brothers or something.
Right. Just the Koch brothers.
Just them. It’s like a few people are excluded, but really, it’s like the rest of us are just sort of at the mercy of the system that’s not really working at its full capacity for anyone.
Where did you find the strength to ... when I read that, I thought that, especially the white nationalism, I don’t think I could speak to ... My brother voted for Trump and I’m still not talking to him. I mean, occasionally.
Yeah, I’m from Trump country, right in California. It’s very conservative. A lot of my family members I’m sure voted for Trump.
But your whole family showed a lot of kindness to him through a very difficult period, I thought that was really quite remarkable.
Yeah. I mean, we were horrified. We were like, what in the hell is that? Are you kidding? You know, it’s like ... Because we knew that’s not ... he wasn’t ... especially because every time he would come out of prison, that was kind of to the wayside. He’s just a drug addict. He’s just looking for heroin, basically. So we knew that and I think we all understood that there’s a certain life in prison that he was living that maybe he felt like he had to live. But I think he also found power in that he can be some badass kind of person. But I think we all sort of understood that there was just such a larger picture happening here.
And I mean, I don’t know, we have a very big, loving family. We’re all fucking kooky and crazy and there are a million things happening, it’s like ... I mean, he’s like a major issue in the family but there’s other stuff going on too.
Okay. All right.
Don’t be turning your nose up at this. There’s a lot going on.
Okay. How does your family feel about all this? They must be thrilled.
Yeah, they’re thrilled. They’re worried about me, of course. I think especially after the tweets, there’s some kind of crazy members in Trump space. So I think they’re concerned.
Have you gotten ...
Are you an honorary member of the Squad now?
I hope so. Goals.
All right. Okay.
Yeah, that would be amazing. I think that they’re so proud of me, though. I think that they always just want me to put my message to be with love and about unity. And sometimes I’m like, well, that’s not really what we need in the moment. But sometimes that is. And I think it’s actually been really amazing because it’s forced us all to have really hard conversations. I mean, the kneeling thing was like, oh God, the family was just shook by the kneeling.
What did they say? Really? This is, for people who don’t know you, you kneeled in ...
Yeah, alongside Colin Kaepernick. We are the only ones in our family. And military members in our family, and just in general a pretty conservative family. So to actually be able to have those conversations about what it really means, what I was doing it for and the bigger picture of it was just an incredible silver lining of all of the negativity.
So let me ask the last question then: To do that takes a lot, to put your arms out, takes a lot to do all these things. You inspire a lot of people, obviously. What has been your inspiration? What keeps you replenished? That’s a very Sonoma word.
Yeah. Wine, mostly.
Wine, wine. Yeah.
Just red wine, really. My mom is a huge inspiration for me. She grew up, she’s one of eight, second-oldest of eight. So she helped raise her family. Both parents were alcoholics, they died very young, grew up dirt poor, didn’t have anything. And I think just from an early age, she instilled in us: You just never know where anyone comes from. You never know their story. You never know what they’re going through. I just don’t know. I love my mom. She’s so cute. But yeah, just to have that empathy and it’s not enough just to be like, “Oh, that’s that person.” You have a responsibility to do something and to extend yourself further beyond what’s just important to you.
So I think with all of the activism and everything, I think that’s like at the heart of it, really where it comes from, and it’s like we all live in this world together. We all have some responsibility, whatever it may be. Not everybody is famous or not everybody is you who has the platform that you do, but everybody has family and friends and people that they work with and everybody can do something. So I think that’s important to know.
I’d be remiss — now that I realized it, I left out your partner Sue Bird, who was epic, is an epic athlete.
Epic. I know. I’m so unimpressive compared to Sue.
It’s like, I think it was Van Jones the other night, he was reading off all the accomplishments.
And it would be like five gold medals. Sue has four. It’d be like all these WNBA championships. Obviously, I have none. All these NCAA championships, all of these everything championships. And I’m like, “Yeah, good job, babe.”
Yeah. Yeah. You’re quite a pair.
Her essay about knowing about you was the best piece of writing out of the entire thing. How do you guys interact together? I mean, you’re now the famous lesbian couple, right?
You’ve surpassed Ellen and Portia, apparently.
Yeah. Yeah. Move over!
Yeah. You know, we’ve only been able to spend a few days together.
So you get along better?
Yeah. Yeah. We’re actually in the process of navigating that. I think we’re both trying to figure out where we land. I mean, obviously we’re used to being, not this level of famous but some sort of famous, and we’re both pretty low key, very supportive of each other. There’s not really a competition because she has like 10 times the more impressive career than I do, so we just know that. But yeah, we’re kinda trying to figure out what it all means and navigate it.
Are you married? Is that correct or not?
Are you going to get married?
I don’t know. I was asking the other day. I’m like, “Let’s go to city hall, get married.” She’s like, “We’ve never talked about marriage before.” And she’s like, “I thought you didn’t want to.” I’m like, “Hmm, I’m feeling romantic.” I don’t know. It’s weird from a societal standpoint. I’m like, I don’t need to get married. It’s just a lot. But then it’s just her and I and I love her. So.
Questions from the audience — and Megan Rapinoe, by the way. Let’s do some questions. We’re going to start with these young people here. You all have good questions, I hope, and then we’ll get to some people in the audience, too.
So get ready Megan. These are the tough ones.
The heavy hitters.
Oh, he’s bringing the iPhone.
Uh oh. Oh no.
Oh Wow. That’s a pair.
Alright. Go ahead.
Children in the audience: As the world’s best women’s soccer player, what would be your advice for kids who would love to grow up and be like you?
Megan Rapinoe: Oh dear. Oh goodness.
Yeah. What’s a good tip?
Megan Rapinoe: Okay. Well, we’re going to get some bleach and some pink hair dye. We’ll start there. I would say that the two most important things are to always believe in yourself, always have that confidence in yourself so then other people know how they should treat you and know that they can have confidence in you. So you always stand up with your big chest out and always have fun. I always have fun when I play. I think that’s the most important thing. I really enjoy what I do on the field and I think when I have a frown on my face, then I’m not reaching my full potential. So to always try to enjoy those moments and realize that it’s a game and it should be fun.
It’s a game. All right, next question. Yeah? Another question? Oh, another. Okay. I just want to make sure, does anyone ... Okay. Go ahead. Quick.
Children in the audience: You stood up to big bullying in the White House. What can we do to stand up against bullying every day in school?
Oh, that’s a good one.
Megan Rapinoe: I think with bullies, they’re really insecure and they’re sad in their own right. So I try to stay away from name-calling, but also stick up for the people that they’re trying to bully and realize that you have the strength within you because you have the positivity and that’s powerful. And I think that when someone’s bullying, they’re coming from a place of negativity and that doesn’t give you power. That makes you smaller.
All right? Next question.
Audience member: I’m just going to put it out there. Swisher-Rapinoe 2020.
Megan Rapinoe: Yeah.
She would be at the top of the ticket. I would be like the one in the back actually beating up the bullies.
Audience member: We can swap it. It’s fine.
Megan Rapinoe: But you’d be the one actually doing stuff. Yeah.
I have different advice. I make you pop the bully right in the ...
Audience member: Oh, it’s fine. Being a woman in technology and fighting the same battle you are, how do you stay resilient and positive and not let it get to you? Because it is hard to face that every single day.
Megan Rapinoe: It is very frustrating and very hard. I mean, I think a good shower rant is always good. Just give it to them, you know, everything you can’t say. I’m a big believer in the personal ...
What are you saying in the shower then?
Just like, “Fuck you!” Just like, “Ugh!” I would say seek out other women. Obviously, we’re very lucky to be around 23 other women who are going through the same thing at the same time. Not everyone has that luxury, but I think a lot of times what’s hard is you start to question and doubt yourself and you’re like, “Should I really be paid this much?” and just like get a girl next to you who’s like, “Hell yeah, you deserve it.” And more. But just to have that support system I think is really important.
And what about you? What about if you’re not on a team with all women?
I know. Then you have to seek it out. I think that, I don’t know, companies like The Wing, something like that or I don’t know if there’s like message boards or just other women at work and be really open about it as well. I think part of what they want is for you to keep it in and feel small about it. So even seeking out other men and just talking about it more and just constantly not hiding those feelings and not hiding the things that are happening to you and not taking them all on yourself and build that support system that way.
Another question? We’re going to do about five.
Audience member: Hi. I’ve been a fan of yours for years and years. But I wanted to know, as someone who lives in California and has followed the US women’s national team for years, how do Californians support the women’s team when there is no team in California? How do you think we should support them?
Megan Rapinoe: You can buy season tickets for other teams and then just give them away or something. There are games on TV now that you can watch. Before that, you can stream games, you can buy merchandise, you can obviously come to the national team games if you can. And I think just talking about it and spreading the word and get people to either watch games with you or just letting them know that it’s happening. Yeah, I think that’s probably the best way. Even just to watch the games and to make sure everyone around you is watching them I think is very helpful.
All right. Another question? Right here?
Audience member: The kids asked a question about the bully in the White House, so for better or for worse, I just wanted to go there for a second. As observers and as marketers, I’m interested in understanding a little bit about the anatomy. You’re in a very interesting spot with the Squad and with gold star families where all of that attention has been fixed on you at some point. And I’m curious — is it a huge bang and then it goes away or do you feel like your management team is still fielding questions and opportunities and negatives at the same point? Maybe they’re in the back? How does that work and is there a big long tail on all of that?
Did you worry about kneeling? You obviously don’t worry about it.
Megan Rapinoe: No. Yeah. I didn’t tell anyone I was kneeling at first. I probably should have. They were like, “Oh, okay, well, this is a thing.” To be honest, I think the kneeling taught me so much about being in this moment now. I’m extremely thankful for all that I went through. I think the negativity is so much less than it feels like. I mean, even with the president tweeting, the amount of people that then came up to me or supported me or on Twitter or whatever after, that has just far exceeded anything of the negative.
And I think sometimes Twitter in particular, because it’s just comments all the time, you get some crazy comment and you’re like, “Oh my God, that’s insane.” And the person has like four followers and is following four people. It’s like, this is not ...
It’s a Russian bot.
It’s not even a real sort of thing. So I actually don’t even really care about just this explicit negativity. I don’t look at comments or anything like that. If you have like the other side that you want to talk about, then I’m totally interested in that and willing to have that conversation. But I don’t even really look at all the negativity. I think there’s so much more support. People are willing to have a genuine conversation about things than there is that negative. No one has ever come up to me, ever, and said one negative thing, ever. And maybe that’s just, it’s easier to come up and say “love you” than to have a conversation.
No, people aren’t shy. People are not shy these days to say negative things to people.
Yeah. But it’s just ...
I’ve never, yeah, I haven’t had that. I mean, even in my own family, I think the way that they approach it was more like, let’s have a conversation because we’re interested about this, even though I wholly disagree with what you’re doing.
In terms of this moment, I think we’re still in the bang and we’re waiting for the dust to settle and we’ll see where all that is. My inbox is out of control. My computer broke. I don’t know what happened. I’m trying to do it on my phone. I’ll have to get to the inbox, but the management team is very much on it and fielding all of the inquiries and questions.
Okay. But you don’t think it has a negative ... You’ll just keep doing it, I’m guessing. Right?
It seems to be working.
I don’t think it has a negative.
I mean, there was actually a significant drop-off in ... I have a business with my sister as well. We do camps and clinics and have a small clothing line. There was a day — the day before and then the day after the kneeling was dramatically different. The sales at our clinics were dramatically different. I feel like sponsorship opportunities ... I didn’t get dropped by any sponsors, but then again, I didn’t really have any, so it’s like I didn’t get any new ones, either.
I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And even on the national team, I didn’t, you know, basically from the last time I kneeled, it was in October, I think. I didn’t roster again until the rule was made that I had to stand.
So this kneeling was worse than the Trump tweet.
Oh yeah. The Trump tweets were what made me famous.
Go, girl. Right. Right. Yeah.
I’m like, thanks, Donald. Appreciate it.
Do you ever expect to meet him? What would you say? Besides, “No, I will not have that McDonald’s hamburger.”
I don’t know what I would say. I mean, I suppose I would just tell him why I think his message is so harmful and how it’s harming people and how it’s excluding people. I think I said this on Anderson Cooper.
He really put me on the spot, by the way. I was like, “Dang. Hey Anderson, this is a hard one.” But just how harmful, but I don’t know if he’s open to listening, really, to anything. So that’s why I’m not interested in going to the White House. I’m not interested in having any conversation. I’m not interested in saying, “Oh, if you do this for us, then we’ll come to the White House.” I don’t think he’s interested in hearing what anyone has to say, really. Other than himself and yeah, just anyone. I don’t think even the base, I don’t think he cares what they say, either. He’s just doing whatever he wants to do.
Okay. Next question. One last question.
Audience member: Thank you. Hello. I have three daughters and I will tell you my oldest 10-year-old daughter almost rode her bike from Boston to California when she heard you are coming, so this is from her. She wants to know about your role as captain and how do you hold the power of that role when you have so many rock stars on your team?
Megan Rapinoe: Yeah, that is an interesting one. I think my leadership style is a mix of extroverted and introverted. I try to first and foremost set the example that I want everyone to follow. And I think with that comes a little bit of edginess, too. I’m not the kind of person that’s like ... well, you know, I’m occasionally late and I don’t like wearing all the same things all the time. So I feel like I have this lightness about it that allows other people to feel as if they can be themselves as well within the concept of not doing anything that’s explicitly harmful to the team or to the other players or whatever. And then I think as an older player, just trying to pass on experiences to the younger players and also look out for them.
It’s been a tough cycle, a really tough cycle emotionally and mentally and psychologically for everyone. So having been through that and being a little bit more equipped to deal with that and the pressures of what it means to be on the national team and trying to make rosters, just trying to keep an eye on everyone, almost they’re like my little kids, but also let them be free and empower them in that way.
And then, for the older ones, I think you just have to be really honest and a little direct, which can be uncomfortable at times. But I think that we all have a good level of respect for each other. Not everyone’s best friends, you don’t have to be. But I think everyone has the right amount of respect for each other, where we can be really honest, and if someone needs to come up and say something to me or vice versa, then we have that.
But yeah, I try to take on as much as I can personally, I think, for the team, because I think I’m good at handling a lot in that way. Especially when we got to the World Cup and media and all of that, like, I’d rather have it be on me and I can deflect in the ways that I’ve become good at and let the kids just enjoy it.
All right. I’m going to ask the very last question. I ask this of every entrepreneur and I think you are an entrepreneur in a lot of ways. What is one mistake you made — whether in sports, life, wherever — and what you learned from it and then what is the one thing you think you do the best?
Gosh? “I never make mistakes.”
That’s my answer to that, but go ahead.
Yeah. I don’t really look at, I don’t have, I mean, I guess regrets, I guess, are different than mistakes.
Yeah. Well, you can do regrets.
I don’t have any regrets.
I guess with the kneeling, maybe if I was a little bit more prepared, but I don’t think I could have really been prepared for that. I don’t think I was naive, but it was just hard to be prepared. I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’ve made, I mean, I’ve certainly made mistakes, but I don’t really regret any of them. The thing I do?
Best. Besides kick a ball.
Besides kick a ball? Yeah.
Kick a ball hard, but yeah.
Yeah. Kick it harder. Interesting. I think that I disarm people very well, and so then I can talk about the things that I want to talk about and that I think are important and bring them in. I think I make people feel comfortable and relaxed.
All right. Megan Rapinoe, everybody.
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