Megan Rapinoe, the outspoken captain of the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national team, is Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year.
“Rapinoe challenged perceptions of her, of female athletes, of all women,” Jenny Vrentas wrote in a story posted Monday by Sports Illustrated.
“She led her teammates, three months before their tentpole tournament, to sue the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay; to declare in advance that they would not visit the White House when they won the Cup; to score 13 goals in a group-stage match against Thailand, without apology.”
The pink-haired Rapinoe scored six goals during the Americans’ march to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup title in France, winning the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and the Golden Ball as its best player.
“Megan Rapinoe is Sportsperson of the Year, though, not because of her newfound fame but because of how she’s handled it,” Vrentas wrote. “She owned the biggest moment of her life and silenced all the doubts.”
Rapinoe is only the fourth woman to be chosen alone as the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year in the 66-year history of the award, joining tennis players Chris Evert (1976) and Serena Williams (2015), and running standout Mary Decker (1983).
SI credited the 34-year-old Rapinoe with striking the “signature sporting image of 2019,” posing near the corner flag after her goals with her arms outstretched, head tilted back, a sly smile on her face.
She made plenty of headlines off the pitch, including getting into a public battle with President Donald Trump after saying she was “not going to the f—– White House” because Trump’s “message is excluding people,” according to Rapinoe, a lesbian.
She has used her post-World Cup platform to further speak out on what the magazine called “equality for all.”
“Even in a year with many great candidates, choosing Megan as the Sportsperson of the Year was an easy decision,” Sports Illustrated’s co-editor-in-chief Steve Cannella said in a statement. “She is a force of nature on and off the field, a trailblazing soccer player who also proves every day how large and loud a voice a socially conscious athlete can have in 2019.”
Rapinoe was also chosen as FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, and she won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award earlier this month from France Football magazine as the player of the year for women’s soccer.