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The Student News Site Of Central Kitsap High School

Cougar Chronicle

The Student News Site Of Central Kitsap High School

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Opinion: Megan Rapinoe’s Legacy is Compelling and Unfinished

The world of soccer is left simultaneously darker and brighter with the retirement of Megan Rapinoe
Rosalie+Johnson+and+her+sister+at+the+2017+Tournament+of+Nations+wearing+Rapinoes+merchandise+that+reads+Be+Your+Best+You
Rosalie Johnson
Rosalie Johnson and her sister at the 2017 Tournament of Nations wearing Rapinoe’s merchandise that reads “Be Your Best You”

Against the short barricade to separate fans from the game on the field stood a young kid with short bubble-gum pink hair, donning a jersey with “Rapinoe” blazoned on the back. Around 10 or 11 years old, they constantly danced, rapidly turned their head at any mention of Megan Rapinoe on the field, and anxiously yet excitedly waved a handmade poster board that read “Megan Rapinoe, you are my hero.” They have affectionately become known as “Little Pinoe” to those sitting behind them in the stands, their character both an homage to Rapinoe and a demonstration of the impact of queer joy representation.

Time seemed to stop the first time I saw them and their admiration for Rapinoe. I took in the bright lights of Lumen Field, thousands of seats that filled the stadium, and loudness of the fans all together. I witnessed the countless Rapinoe jerseys identical to the one Little Pinoe wore, eavesdropped on conversations expressing awe and gratitude for Rapinoe’s career, and felt the ground around me shake with celebration as she came onto the field for warmups.

It brought me back to being 10 years old at Memorial Stadium when I was first introduced to Rapinoe. Surrounded by nearly 31,000 less people in a marginally worse facility, we watched her technical skill and physical aggressiveness lead the OL Reign to success. 

As we spent more time watching the Reign, I spent more time getting to know Megan Rapinoe as a player and person. She and I never made eye contact, let alone have a conversation – but her striking authenticity and unapologetic attitude sparked a flame in me.

As my first season of watching the Reign passed, my connection to the sport, team, and Rapinoe was strengthened. I saw myself in Rapinoe – a loud and aggressive player who could sometimes (frequently) get in trouble with the referees, an outspoken and passionate person who spoke her mind. I began to learn about and understand myself more; at times when I felt as though I was in an internal battle with my own mind, I found solace in soccer and in Rapinoe. 

An out and proud queer athlete, she demonstrated that regardless of what I discovered about myself, I am good and worthy of acceptance, and that everything would be okay. I thank her for helping me realize and share parts of myself that I would otherwise still be cloaking.

I was brought back to Lumen. Back to the nonstop loud chatter, back to crisp cool air on my skin, back to Little Pinoe. I may not have grown up with Megan Rapinoe as a global soccer superstar and gay representation, but Little Pinoe, and countless other girls in soccer, did. 

Rapinoe’s retirement game shattered NWSL attendance records as fans poured through the doors; young athletes grasped self-made posters thanking Rapinoe while older fans donned bubblegum-pink hairpieces in homage to Rapinoe’s arguably most iconic moment on the international stage. I cried tears of joy and gratitude and sadness, and celebrated with my sister as we landed on the big screen in front of the stadium.

She took on a career and role with no instructions or blueprint. Instead, Rapinoe created her own path, demonstrating to the world – and especially young girls – the importance of self-confidence and staunch advocacy.

Rapinoe, anchored to the values of truth, justice, and social equality, never once faltered or considered giving in to the poison of the misogynistic and homophobic vitriol that many attempted to force-feed. 

When she took a knee during the national anthem of a 2016 international match in solidarity with football player Colin Kaepernick, against the deeply-ingrained structural racism of America and calling attention to police brutality inflicted upon communities of color, she harbored nothing but complete conviction and moral justification. Despite the incendiary reactions of mostly far-right and conservative political figures who defined the protest as anti-American and vile, Rapinoe never ceased to utilize her platform for the elevation of marginalized voices.

Embodying the absolute best of sports, Rapinoe consistently found, expressed, and shared deep joy. The community of women’s soccer she aided in establishing was inspired by her tenacity and courage both on the pitch and in the world. With celebrations of her and her team’s accomplishments, Rapinoe uplifted spirits and recognition of the talent of women in sports.

Rapinoe’s committed opposition to the antiquated attitudes of gender roles and romance ignited a deep antipathy to the system in place that, for so long, shamed and brutalized queer people for their love, denied women opportunities to pursue their passions, and forced a life of either painful silence or vigorous protest. 

I keep thinking back to Little Pinoe. The youth I experienced – though nowhere near discriminatory – still left me feeling isolated and alone. Little Pinoe will experience a youth of greater belonging and acceptance. Their fearlessness and joy felt as they ebulliently cheered for Rapinoe, how different of a life they will lead because of groundbreakers like Rapinoe – how liberating it must be.

I can’t think of a more fitting legacy for an icon like Rapinoe. Though not a saint, she consistently works towards and fights for justice and healing. It will be strange and somewhat bittersweet watching soccer now, knowing she won’t be returning in her cleats and uniform with magenta or teal hair. It will be beautiful to see her legacy of love and advocacy carry on in those who support and those who participate in women’s soccer. 

For all of this, I hold nothing but immense gratitude and deep admiration for Megan Rapinoe.

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About the Contributor
Rosalie Johnson, Reporter, Editor-in-Chief
Rosalie Johnson is a senior at Central Kitsap High School and is in her fourth year with the journalism program and The Cougar Chronicle. She joined Journalism to connect with her community through education, information, and collaboration, and appreciates the continuous opportunities to improve writing and communication skills that this course offers. Rosalie hopes to pursue a career in journalism following graduation and hopes that this course will help prepare her for this future. Outside of school, Rosalie loves reading, attending concerts, visiting state parks and trails, traveling, and spending time with her loved ones.
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