“How can I not stand up and be there for someone else? How can I not say something?” asked Olympic gold medalist and Women’s World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe to a packed Heights Room Friday afternoon. “I can’t not do anything, obviously. I have a platform, and I have a voice, and I have popularity, and I can use that to speak out.”
For most other athletes, activism just doesn’t fit into their already packed schedules. But for Rapinoe, a current midfielder with the Seattle Reign F.C., it’s an integral part of her personal brand. After coming out as a lesbian just before the London Olympics in 2012, Rapinoe has “hatched as an activist,” as she would say, fiercely advocating for LGBTQ+ awareness and equal pay in sports ever since.
In a Marketing Academy of Boston College event, co-sponsored by Allies of Boston College, UGBC, GLC, Women’s Center, the Communications Department, and BC Athletics, Rapinoe discussed her commitment to living her most authentic life and how she uses her platform responsibly to affect social change. The athlete-turned-activist has established a platform with quite a large audience by playing soccer in front of millions worldwide, garnering over 500 thousand Instagram followers, and with Rapinoe SC, LLC, the company she co-founded with her twin sister, Rachael.
But to her rapt audience of college students, she stressed that you don’t need to be a public figure to make a difference; you can begin by affecting change in your “hundred yards,” or the small corner of the world you can influence.
“I think often people feel that the problem is so big and complex that you can’t impact it in any way,” said Rapinoe. “But you can do your small part.” She explained that this was the philosophy on which she and her sister founded their company, which runs fitness programs and clinics across the country. The company’s focus is simple and independent of any goal other than encouraging people to “Be the Best You.”
Rapinoe’s “small part” came last September, when she knelt during the national anthem before one of her games, following fellow athlete Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers in protesting racial injustice and minority oppression in America.
“Sometimes the person who’s screaming the loudest isn’t the majority,” Rapinoe commented upon facing the backlash from her decision to kneel. “For the most part, the impact was positive. I had so many people come up to me and thank me for that.”
The kneeling marked a turning point in Rapinoe’s activism, solidifying her unapologetic style of advocacy. Now, standing on stage with the confidence of someone used to standing (or kneeling) alone, Megan Rapinoe left the room with a rousing call to action for students to make an impact wherever possible, using the platform they find themselves on to project their voices. In her words, passivity when a broken system doesn’t directly affect you is a violation of your responsibility to those around you.
“I do think it’s important to take responsibility. Why doesn’t everyone have to do that? We all need to take responsibility and understand that we can have a hand in shaping dialogue and breaking down systems that are detrimental to our country.”