Megan Rapinoe spoke without interruption for 9 minutes, 32 seconds Friday on the subject of the Supreme Court’s demolition of the Roe v. Wade decision, pausing occasionally to fight back tears and more often fighting through them to continue making her point.
“I wish that we could just talk about soccer today,” Rapinoe told reporters. “But, obviously, with the ruling on Roe v. Wade, that takes precedence over everything. It’s hard to put into words how sad a day this is for me personally, for my teammates, for just all of the people out there who this is going to affect.
“I say this all the time, but: Pro-choice means that you get to choose. Pro-choice allows other people to be pro-life if that is what works for them, or that is what their beliefs are or that is where they’re at in their life. Pro-life doesn’t allow anybody to make a choice.
“I think you can understand, from an individual perspective, how difficult it is to live in a country where you have a constant, unrelenting, violent … tide against you – an onslaught – as a woman, and it would be as a gay person and as a non-binary person, as a trans person, whoever this is going to affect. Because it affects a lot more than just women, or cis women. It really does affect us all.”
U.S. Soccer had scheduled a media opportunity for Friday afternoon to discuss preparation Saturday night’s U.S. women’s national team friendly against Colombia in suburban Denver, with planned conversations available with Denver-area native Lindsey Horan and head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
Rapinoe, a two-time World Cup winner and frequent USWNT captain, was added to the docket after the decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which invalidated Roe v. Wade after nearly a half century as settled law, was released.
Horan answered a question about the decision to open her discussion, saying, “Waking up and hearing that news was not great, to say the least. I’m still a little bit shocked and trying to take it all in, but I do feel like this is a step backwards for our country.”
Andonovski was asked how he viewed his role as a man in charge of a women’s soccer team in dealing with the news.
“It’s not something that makes me happy, as someone who has a wife and two daughters, who wants them to have a choice and make the decision they want, he said. “But being in an environment with female athletes, I just feel like it’s my responsibility to support them with everything that they have right now. I want to be there for them.”
The game Saturday will be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colo. On Friday, Dick’s became one of the major U.S. companies – also including Zillow, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Starbucks, among others – to declare they would cover travel costs for women working in states where abortion is banned to have the procedure performed where legal.
There were reactions from other women’s sports organizations. The WNBA Players Association issued a statement calling the Supreme Court “a branch of government that is so out of touch with the country and any sense of human dignity.” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman and the league said in a statement the ruling “denies individuals in this country the full liberty and equality that is the cornerstone of a just society.”
Statement from Commissioner Berman and the NWSL: pic.twitter.com/MX1dkRMKUM
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) June 24, 2022
Rapinoe said a group of USWNT players spoke with program general manager Kate Markgraf in anticipation of this decision being announced and that they feel “extremely supported” by U.S. Soccer.
“We will always be supported to use our voices,” Rapinoe said. “And we always have been, in this federation. We understand as a team we have an incredible platform to do good in the world.
“To me, this is not a political issue, at all. This is a human rights issue.”
Rapinoe went out of her way to make the point that she is concerned not for herself on this particular issue, but those with fewer advantages. She said the ruling would “exacerbate inequalities” that already exist.
“I would encourage people to try to understand the intersectionality of this. I am a cisgender, rich, white woman that lives in two of the most progressive cities in the world, with the protection of not only myself and my resources but this resource and this protection,” Rapinoe said, pointing to the “States” logo on her U.S. Soccer-issued warmup suit. “Not everyone is afforded that.
“We know that this will disproportionately affect poor women, Black women, Brown women, immigrants, women in abusive relationships, women who have been raped, women and girls who have been raped by family members, who — you know what? — maybe just didn’t make the best choice. That’s no reason to be forced to have a pregnancy. It will completely exacerbate so many of the existing inequalities that we have in our country. It doesn’t keep not one single person safer.”
However, Rapinoe, who came out as gay a decade ago and has been engaged to WNBA superstar Sue Bird for two years, said she is concerned about the future erosion of individual rights that could impact issues such as same-sex marriage.
“I absolutely think gay rights are under attack. I absolutely think we will see legislation pop up, state by state by state, that will eventually come to this radical court,” Rapinoe said. “I have zero faith that my rights will be upheld by the court. I have faith in our country, and I have faith in people and I have faith in voters – if you ever needed a motivation to vote, to get involved, quite literally peoples’ lives depend on it.”