The Heart of Sports: Where Are The Men? Good Question, Megan.

While the stars of men’s soccer remain on the sidelines on social activism, USWNT star and outspoken social justice leader, Megan Rapinoe, calls on them to help.

“The Heart of Sports” is a weekly column that curates the stories, pictures and moments that provide a window into the beating heart of sports:

  • The moments in and around the game that are bigger than the game itself.
  • The speeches to teammates and fans that are larger even than the game itself.
  • The moments when sports is used as a platform for bigger social conversations.
  • The thrilling moments from your childhood that you never forget.
  • The tender moments among teammates.

It’s why we watch. It’s why we play. It’s the stuff that rises up out of sports and settles down into us.

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This week’s Edition of The Heart of Sports comes from USWNT star and social justice activist, Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe, perhaps the best woman soccer player in the world, has been an incisive and outspoken leader on social justice leaders, including #BlackLivesMatter, the gender pay gap, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, racism, and sexism.

We have covered Rapinoe’s on-the-pitch and off-the-pitch exploits in this space before, here and here. As Rapinoe previously challenged all of us after leading team USA to World Cup Gold:

This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We got to listen more, and talk less. We got to know this is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here. Every single person who is not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place. I think this team does an incredible job of taking that on our shoulders and understanding the position that we have and the platform we have within this world.

Yes we play sports. Yes we play soccer. Yes we’re female athletes but we’re so much more than that. You’re so much more than that. You’re more than a fan. You’re more than someone who just supports sport. You’re more than someone who tunes in every four years. You’re someone who walks these streets every single day. You interact with your community every single day. How do you make your community better? How do you make the people around you better? Your family? Your closest friends? The 10 closest people to you? The 20 closest people to you? The most 100 closest people to you? It’s every single person’s responsibility.

‘Cristiano, Lionel, Zlatan, help me!’

This week, after becoming the second woman soccer player to ever win the Ballon d’Or award, she took that opportunity to direct her challenge squarely at some of soccer’s biggest male stars, pointing out that none of these players has been outspoken on social issues, despite having the platform and credibility to do so:

“I want to shout: ‘Cristiano, Lionel, Zlatan, help me!’ These big stars do not engage in anything when there are so many problems in men’s football. 

Do they fear losing everything?

They believe that, but it is not true. Who will erase Messi or Ronaldo from world football history for a statement against racism or sexism?” 

It’s a fair question and an accurate point:

Where are the men?

Why aren’t they speaking out too?

We’ve written previously in this column of the importance of athlete’s using sports as a platform to address larger social issues. But international men’s soccer luminaries, like Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Zlatan Ibrohimovic have remained notably silent. They are, as they say, ‘just sticking to soccer.’

This isn’t the first time that Rapinoe has been outspoken on the issue of how we are all in this together, for all of these social issues. In earlier comments she made when accepting the award for FIFA’s best woman player this past September, Rapinoe said:

“If we really want to have meaningful change, what I think is most inspiring would be if everybody other than Raheem Sterling and Koulibaly [two black players subjected to racist abuse by fans], if they were as outraged about racism as they were, if everybody else was that,” Rapinoe said while accepting the FIFA best women’s player award in September. “If everybody was as outraged about homophobia as the LGBTQ player. If everybody was as outraged about equal pay or the lack thereof or the lack of investment in the women’s game other than just women, that would be the most inspiring thing to me.”

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens