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‘Don’t bring that bullsh** here’: Megan Rapinoe on Capitol attacks, USWNT return

Photo copyright by Lewis Gettier/The Equalizer.

Megan Rapinoe spoke to members of the media on Tuesday, while in camp with the U.S. women’s national team. Rapinoe spoke on the recent insurrection and riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, being back with the national team, and her teammates participating in major social activism. Here is a full transcription of her first media availability of year, upon her return to a pro/national team training camp for the first time since March 2020:

On the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6:

“Oof. You know, as I think it sets in and we’re almost a week out from Jan. 6, which will certainly, and rightfully so, live on in the echoes of American history forever, it’s just striking how horrible it was and just how insane it was. From the climate in the country being such that we have our political leaders, our chief political leader, inciting an actual, real-life, murderous and deadly insurrection against his own government, against his own people, against his own party. The Vice President of the United States was in the halls of Congress, as were Congress people and Senators alike, and all the people that work in that building as well, from the staff to the Capitol police, etc. To see where we’ve come in these four years has been devastating, and also just, I think, hopefully the final straw for so many people to really understand that the reason that we’re here is because we never have actually had a reckoning with what our country really is.

This is America, make no mistake about it. I think we showed, very much, our true colors. This is not the first time we’ve seen a murderous mob like that. I think unleashing a white supremacist mob is nothing new to America, as people of color, black and brown, know that very well. All the calls for unity and justice obviously cannot come without justice. If we do not punish this and investigate this to the fullest extent, it only encourages more of this to happen.

I think, too, we should not underestimate what could have happened. I think that we are very lucky that that officer lead them away from the Senate halls, that mob. I mean, we saw people with weapons and people with zip ties. And like, they put up a gallow outside the Capitol building where they were chanting to hang the Vice President of the United States. So anybody thinking, ‘Oh well, you know, they wouldn’t really have done that much’ — and I think honestly, we give the sort of a pass a little bit, maybe because it looks familiar to us, because it’s white or white supremacist, or maybe we haven’t seen this in our lifetimes. But I think that we should make no mistake about what the intent was behind it. It was a murderous mob. I mean, five people are dead, and we can’t bring them back.

So, this week certainly will be hugely consequential in the history of our country. It’s going to be very intense. But I mean, just from a personal standpoint, it’s very unsettling and scary. I think the the courage of the lawmakers to get back in there and continue their work and the utter bottomless of some of these lawmakers who continue to incite violence and still call for overturning the election, when the mandate’s been given by the United States and by the people of the United States, it’s just absolutely insane, [and] they should be held accountable.

And I think in order for us to move on, that has to happen. We obviously have an extremely long road — amidst a global pandemic, where you you literally have people sheltering from an insurrection happening in the Capitol and they still will not wear a mask. And we’re seeing outbreaks happen and a few lawmakers have tested positive.

Hopefully this is the last layer that we needed to rip off, although it’s been abundantly clear for a number of–hundreds [of] years–what the real issue is. This was about white supremacy and holding up white supremacy, and I hope that we can see this and move forward with justice. And I think that’s the only way that that we can actually move forward. I think it’s all out in the open, it’s all stripped bare at this point. And so hopefully the lawmakers will have the courage to do what needs to be done, and everyday citizens as well, we’ll understand that we have a part to play in it, just as everybody else does.

So this is a huge stain on the country, but hopefully, an opportunity for us to move forward in the way that we need to.

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On her teammates social activism throughout 2020 on anti-racism:

I feel a little emotional talking about it. I have just a huge amount of pride and respect for so many people going through their journey and learning and growing, and feeling more comfortable speaking out about things. Obviously, what we saw through the summer and just through the pandemic with the protests, hopefully a lot of people’s eyes are opened up, particularly my fellow white teammates.

It is, in fact, our responsibility to stand in unity with our Black teammates to make them feel that this is an open space to talk about things. I think that we have not done a good enough job as a whole team, as a whole country, obviously. But you know, just speaking for our team, we can always do better. Just hearing about a lot of the conversations that have happened, a lot of the the progress that has been made, the different players stepping up and knowing how different it is now as opposed to four years ago when I first knelt. Seeing, frankly, the growth and reconciliation start to happen with the Federation as well, with the repeal of the kneeling ban, and an apology for that, I think that’s a huge step, one I know [is] appreciated by myself but appreciated by the Black players on our team as well.

And I’m sure members of the media, people of color, Black people, our fans, everybody, I think it’s a necessary first step. I’ve been just super happy, excited and proud of the way that the team has taken this on and will continue to have these conversations. The most encouraging part is that we know that this is something that’s going to be a constant conversation for us, and a constant learning process and areas where we can grow and use our platform in the most effective way.

We are in an incredibly unique situation to be able to represent the United States of America, via our sport, and have such a cross section of culture and race and sexuality and personalities on this team. And this is just one more area that we will continue to try to shine light [on] and do the best that we can use our voices in the loudest way possible.

But to think of, obviously, where we were four or five years ago, to where we are now as players and as a Federation, and now we can start to move forward together, I think, is huge, and shows a big shift in leadership at the top of U.S. Soccer, and shows a lot of growth from the players in the team right now.

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On wearing the U.S. Soccer crest:

I feel it is my personal responsibility to make the world a better place in whatever way that I can, and I am very lucky and fortunate and have been a part of building this incredible platform that is the U.S. women’s national team. I think I probably didn’t take even more pride, turning on the crest.

The last time I put the crest on, put it on inside out. And I feel like we’ve come a long way from that, in a lot of different ways, and clearly we still have ground to gain on that but I think that we are definitely heading in the right direction and so being able to come back and especially after what we saw last week to have this team represent red, white and blue and a crest and an American flag in essence, for what we stand for in the future that we’re fighting for and inclusion and using our platform to speak up about the right things, it’s gonna be a really special moment, I think, for for a lot of us and the first of many in sort of this this new journey in this continued journey of fighting to make the world a more equitable place a safer place, you know, frankly a less racist place than it is today.

I’m looking forward to, obviously being back out on the field my teammates, but I think putting the crest on as of now, right side out. Barring anything crazy — I’m just kidding — right side out will be a very special moment I think a proud moment for everybody on this team I know it will be for me.

On the photograph of the women at the Capitol wearing a USWNT hoodie:

Yeah, I mean just from a personal standpoint I feel like I can probably speak on behalf of a lot of my teammates. That is not the kind of fan that that we will welcome. The U.S. crest is not to be confused with anything that has to do with white supremacy, anything that has to do with the Trump administration, anything that has to do with that divisive culture that we saw on the Capitol, so don’t take any comfort in thinking that the crest is synonymous with that or the red, white and blue or the stars that we have above it.

You know, I saw the picture. And we want to create, and continue to create, a place that’s inclusive and safe and diverse for our fans to be in, and for our players to play in front of, and for people to watch on TV, and for the media to cover, so don’t bring that bullshit here.

On being back with the USWNT and where she’s at physically and mentally:

I mean, to be honest from a very selfish and personal standpoint, I mean, there was so much positive that came from this long layoff, I don’t think I’ve been this rested, my entire career, certainly not since like maybe high school. I’m in a much better position as of January 12, 2021, than I was one year ago obviously coming off the World Cup and everything that ensued was just, you know, an amazing mayhem but mayhem, nonetheless.

Not playing much the back half of the year, very sporadic, and trying to balance all of the media appearances and opportunities that I had it was difficult to even be ready for those January games, obviously we went right into qualifiers and SheBelieves… I was slow to to get back into things last year so I actually feel really good, physically, and just refreshed in a lot of ways. Mentally and emotionally, [I] had to spend, obviously, a lot of time quarantining at home with Sue [Bird, Rapinoe’s fiancée] and just being able to relax.

But, I’m obviously so excited to start playing again. It was really difficult to not be out on the field with my teammates and to not have a consistent training environment. Anyone who really knows me knows I hate to work out on my own as it is. So, to have to do that for 10 straight months and try to keep myself motivated was very difficult but I’m really looking forward to being back out on the field my teammates.

Honestly, I think that it’s so difficult to go World Cup(s) and Olympics. We talk about this all the time of beginning any team has gone that gone back-to-back winning that and there’s a reason for that. It’s just difficult. You spend the sort of year and a half period preparing for the World Cup. And then you kind of have to turn it around so quickly and do the Olympics, which is an even tougher tournament because of timelines. So, the team I think is in a really good place and excited to be back together.

And for me personally I feel thankful that I was able to have that time and grateful I was able to have that time so I feel a lot better this January than I did last January.

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On opting out of NWSL competitions and her busy 2020 year:

I mean, I think the the reason for the absence from all competitive soccer last year was always sort of a combination of COVID concern and not really being ready to be in competitive games because I couldn’t really get consistent training and just wasn’t really in a place that I felt comfortable to put myself back into competitive games and the virus concerns, frankly. I still have a lot of virus concerns as it’s raging all across the country, but the Federation has set up in an amazing environment here that feels very safe and is close to a bubble as we can get, we’re sort of in the middle of nowhere, Florida. The fields are right at the complex and we’re able to kind of have some space and do that really safely.

The last year… I mean, I feel like Sue and I both really early on, just sort of took the approach, like, okay, it is what it is. This is what we can do, this is what we can’t do. Early on in quarantine, couldn’t really do much so even working with the trainer that we both use trying to figure out what kind of workouts we were doing, obviously doing much less, you’re not going to be able to train the way that you need to train to be a high level athlete.

In the first two weeks of quarantine, we couldn’t even leave the apartment we’re like lunging suitcases down the hallway, just doing whatever we could eventually we got a Peloton. But I think just mentally it put us in a good place of like, ‘Okay, let’s work out for our health and our mental health, do as much as you can know that you’re not gonna be able to do everything don’t beat yourself up about it.’

Then, I think from other perspective in terms of our online presence or doing the book and the show and all those kinds of things, both of us were like let’s just do what we can. Early on in quarantine, it was kind of our approaches like let’s have some levity. We had our little Instagram show fueled by Moscow mules, of course… So that was fun. You know, provide just a little levity and entertainment for people and ourselves, of course.

As things got more serious after George Floyd and Ahmad Arbury, that didn’t really feel appropriate anymore, so how do we then throw our platform into lifting up Black voices and supporting social justice movement. Obviously, Sue then goes to the “Bubble” and I was able to join her down there during the absolute hottest months of Florida, which was really just too hot for me — I need to never come here in the summer. But to be a part of that, and take the time to spend with each other and be a part of the incredible WNBA season that happened — and shout out to the NWSL, as well, I think they did such a fantastic job, not only getting the season off and having it be really safe, but centering social justice.

The players took on so much for league and for sports traditionally that has not been that involved in social justice, especially when talking about Black lives mattering. So, being a part of all that I feel like we just tried to do what we can stay busy stay active. I felt like for both Sue and I, it wasn’t a moment where we needed to pivot. This is who we are. This is what what we’re all about. We obviously are aware that we have a platform and that we have influence but we want to do that. We’re seeing the impact that we’re having.

I mean Sue was sort of the the brainchild. And obviously with the execution of the WNBA players and flipping two Senate seats, which is just, in a traditionally deeply red state, they elected a black man and a Jewish man, which is just absolutely incredible. So I feel like we just tried to be flexible and sort of go with the flow and continue to throw our voices into anything that we felt like we could have an impact in.

I think we didn’t spend too much time worrying about what was lost, but rather what we can do in this moment being thankful that we can spend time with each other and there is a lot to be thankful for this year. We feel that personally and so yeah just try to make the best of everything have a really difficult year.

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