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Looking Back at Megan Rapinoe's Best Moments of 2019

On and off the pitch, it was a memorable year for for SI's 2019 Sportsperson of the Year, Megan Rapinoe.
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From neon pink hair to striking that pose in France; from calling herself a “walking protest” to scoring the most goals in the World Cup; from being open about her sexuality to winning the Ballon d’Or, Megan Rapinoe was fearless in 2019. She’s a role model and internationally known for her craftiness on the pitch. She speaks up. She speaks out. And she’s not afraid to be on the front lines of change, like when she and her U.S. Women’s National Team teammates filed a lawsuit for equal pay against the U.S. Soccer Federation three months before the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She has a platform, knows how to use it, and has no fear in doing so.

While it's unfair to narrow down Rapinoe's 2019 to just a handful of highlights, these on- and off-the-field moments stood out for the 2019 SI Sportsperson of the Year.

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The Equal Pay Fight

As Rapinoe and her teammates wrapped American flags around themselves and celebrated their record third World Cup title, fans erupted in chants of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” Rapinoe—one of the 28 players who sued the USSF alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination” three months before the team left for France—told Anderson Cooper after the tournament that she felt like that was a turning point in the fight.

The USWNT co-captain has been vocal on this issue and points to the fact that the battle isn’t just about money—it’s about investment and branding in women’s football. She even recently challenged soccer’s biggest superstars to get involved. After becoming the second woman ever to win the Ballon d’Or, honoring the best woman’s player in the world, Rapinoe told award organizers France Football that Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic need to take issues like racism and sexism head on.

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The Pose After Scoring vs. France

In 1999, Brandi Chastain tore off her shirt and fell to her knees after nailing the World Cup winning penalty kick. While that moment will always live on in sports glory, 20 years later, Rapinoe created another iconic moment. After scoring her first of two goals against France in the quarterfinal matchup, Rapinoe jogged to the sideline, put her feet together, raised her arms wide like a V, and capped it with a soft smile—as if she were announcing her unapologetic self to the world. Sure, she was celebrating her goal, but she was also honoring her team and women’s soccer owning the biggest stage in the world. On a deeper level, Rapinoe’s moment evoked American patriotism and activism and will go down as one of the most viral and triumphant in history.

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“Not f****ng going to the White House”

Back in January, a reporter from soccer magazine Eight by Eight asked Rapinoe if she was excited to visit the White House if the USWNT won the World Cup. Rapinoe, who went to the Barack Obama White House with her teammates after winning the 2015 World Cup, responded that she was “not going to the f****ng White House.” That interview clip surfaced in the middle of the tournament and set Twitter ablaze. It also drew sharp criticism from President Donald Trump, who responded in a series of tweets, including the comment that “She should WIN before she TALKS! Finish the job.”

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Obviously, she did. Rapinoe, who has called herself a “walking protest,” was totally unfazed by the media attention. Probably because she’s never been one to shy away from controversy, like when she knelt twice during the national anthem while playing for her country in 2016 to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.

When it came to Trump and Twitter, though, Rapinoe responded in the most appropriate way: By scoring two clutch goals against France in the quarterfinal and another in the final against the Netherlands.

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The Ticker-Tape Speech

Rapinoe and the USWNT made their way through the “Canyon of Heroes”—a stretch of Broadway in downtown New York designated for ticker-tape parades—by dancing on floats with bottles of champagne. Eventually, they arrived at City Hall where New York Mayor Bill de Blasio presented each player with a key to the city.

After Jill Ellis and Carli Lloyd spoke briefly, Rapinoe closed out the ceremony with a strong, heartfelt speech while standing in front of thousands of fans, her teammates, coaches and U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro, who was sitting to her right.

Rapinoe talked about her resilient teammates and how she was honored to lead them out on the field. She thanked support staff, coaches, team doctors and chefs. And she also thanked—and politely nudged—Cordeiro on the issue of equal pay.

Some fans booed when they heard the president’s name, but Rapinoe kept on, speaking confidently while booting the ball into U.S. Soccer’s court. “It’s time to come together,” she said. “If this team is any representation of what you can be when you do that, please take this as an example. This group is incredible. We took so much on our shoulders to be here today, to celebrate with you today, and we did it with a smile. So do the same for us, please, I ask you.”

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The Hardware Haul

Rapinoe was recently named the winner of the women’s Ballon d’Or as the world’s top female soccer player of the year. Messi won the honor on the men’s side for a record sixth time.

While this prestigious award has been given out since 1956, a women’s award was only given out for the first time last year. Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, who took a stand by refusing to play for her national team in the World Cup citing unfair treatment, won in 2018.

Add this to Rapinoe’s ever-growing trophy case. Not only is she also two-time Olympian and two-time World Cup champion, this summer she earned both the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer (six goals) and the Golden Ball as the top player. She later won the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, too.