Megan Rapinoe, the captain of the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer team, has become the latest ideological thorn lodged underneath the collective skin of conservatives. But Rapinoe kneeling during the national anthem or saying that she isn’t “going to the f***ing White House” seems downright inoffensive compared to her behavior over the course of the past few days.
Appearing on multiple news outlets, Megan Rapinoe appeared self-centered and divisive. She criticized President Donald Trump, as expected. She made accusations of homophobia, as expected. And an adoring Rachel Maddow called for Rapinoe to run for president, as expected. After famously scoffing at the very notion of interacting with people who hold different opinions, Megan Rapinoe took to the stage during the World Cup victory parade in New York City to call for unity: “This is my charge to everyone: We have to be better, we have to love more and hate less. Listen more and talk less.”
Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Megan Rapinoe said that she would be willing to have a “substantive conversation” with “anyone” … who “believes the same things” as she does. Combine this with her now-infamous admonition to “Listen more and talk less,” and we are getting dangerously close to Animal Farm’s quip: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Megan Rapinoe on kneeling during the national anthem: "I had this immense sense of pride" pic.twitter.com/WbEFCt3ENM
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) July 10, 2019
The hypocrisy of those on the Left calling for diversity while actively rejecting diversity of thought is certainly nothing new. However, Megan Rapinoe is indicative of a far greater problem.
Rapinoe has been lauded by her supporters as the ultimate leader. The New York Times described her as a “Leader for Her Team, and Her Time.” Unwittingly, the specific language used is actually quite apt. During the parade in New York, Rapinoe looked into the camera, holding the World Cup trophy in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other, and belted out, “I deserve this.”
— Emmy Bengtson (@EmmyA2) July 10, 2019
“I,” not “we.” “Her,” not “our.” Those who are obsessively praising the leadership attributes of Megan Rapinoe prove that they have completely forgotten the virtues of leadership.
Leaders are not selfish. Leaders are selfless. Megan Rapinoe intentionally cast a shadow of controversy over the U.S. women’s World Cup campaign. She used the tournament as a platform to promote her own ideology, rather than pursuing patriotic unity to bridge ever-growing political divides. In return for the decision to promote herself as an activist, she willingly risked alienating potential supporters, thereby damaging her team and her sport.
Rapinoe has been compared to Colin Kaepernick, a similarly divisive figure who almost single-handedly divided NFL audiences by political ideology. While Rapinoe’s activism is built upon success, Kaepernick built his upon failure, timing his protests perfectly with his demotion to the bench. However, both Rapinoe and Kaepernick were leaders of their respective teams, and both were willing to sacrifice their responsibilities as leaders in favor of selfish and divisive objectives. Their actions represent the absolute antithesis of leadership.
Ronald Reagan, arguably the last true leader to have held the office of the presidency, described leadership as follows: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
When Reagan spoke of “the people.” he was not speaking solely of those “on his team.” He was speaking of every person in the country. For Megan Rapinoe to earn the title of leader for “her time,” she must be a leader for “the people” — and not just “some people.”
Megan Rapinoe has yet to encourage “the people” to “do the greatest things”. Until she focuses on healing and unity, rather than fueling division, she will never be a true leader. Anyone can bring people together who are the same. It takes someone special to bring people together who are different.