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Megan Rapinoe went to the f-ing White House

Laura Harvey and Lu Barnes share why they think Pinoe deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Biden Awards The Presidential Medal Of Freedom To 17 Recipients Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Thursday, July 7, OL Reign and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Megan Rapinoe did what she said she’d never do three years ago with then-President Donald Trump: she went to the f-ing White House. This time, it was for a great reason, as Rapinoe was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with 16 others in a ceremony at the White House.

Rapinoe, who turned 37 just two days earlier, was all smiles as President Joe Biden put the medal around her neck. Her family, including fiancé Sue Bird, was in attendance to witness the moment. Rapinoe wore an off-white suit with the initials “BG” and a flower embroidered on the blazer in honor of Brittney Griner, a WNBA and Team USA basketball player who has been held in Russia since Feb. 17.

“The most important part of today. BG is being used as a political pawn and we need to bring her home immediately,” Rapinoe shared on her Instagram Stories the day of the event. “This plea doesn’t change that @potus needs to and is working hard to get her home.”

As highlighted by U.S. Soccer, Rapinoe was having lunch with her U.S. teammates in between training sessions when her cellphone rang. The forward is with the national team for Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. The caller ID on her phone showed two words: “White House.” The Reign forward assumed it was a prank and showed it to teammate Kelley O’Hara, who said, “You probably need to pick that up.”

When Rapinoe finally answered, she was asked to “please hold for the president of the United States.”

After the White House announcement, Rapinoe and U.S. Soccer held a press conference where the Reign original highlighted what the honor meant to her and how she intends to continue to use her platform to make a difference.

“It’s really hard to find the words to express how special this is and what this means to me. I just can’t help but think of all the other people that I feel really have a part and deserve a part of this medal — my family, all of my friends, Sue [Bird], the entire extended family around the U.S. Women’s National Team,” Rapinoe shared. “And obviously Colin Kaepernick. You are so brave, and you gave us all a path to use our voice and to step outside ourselves.”

Rapinoe also mentioned more influential figures that have guided her path, including the three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, Billie Jean King, and Venus and Serena Williams “for being so unapologetically great.”

“My playing career has given me the opportunity to talk about all of these things that really, truly do matter. It’s about validating this push for equality and the rights and freedoms for everyone.”

The OL Reign forward, who has been with the club since the league launched in 2013, skipped the USWNT’s World Cup qualifier against Jamaica to accept the award, which is considered the highest civilian honor. She is the first soccer player to receive the award and one of just six female athletes or coaches. The White House said in a release that Rapinoe is a “prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.”

“Beyond the World Cup title to Olympic medals, Megan is a champion for essential American truth that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” Biden said at the award ceremony. “She helped lead the change for perhaps the most important victory for anyone on our soccer team or any soccer team: equal pay for women.”

At OL Reign’s pre-match press conference ahead of their match against Portland, head coach Laura Harvey and Reign original and captain Lauren Barnes were asked about Rapinoe’s recognition. Both praised the forward for her authenticity and the fact that she’s never changed her personality — never once, through all the highs and lows.

Here are the full quotes from Rapinoe’s coach and teammate.

Laura Harvey on how Rapinoe makes her a better person:

I mean, she’s (forward Megan Rapinoe) Pinoe. I think the thing that I admire the most about Pinoe is that, from the day I met her until today, she’s never changed. With all the stardom, all the accolades, all the hard times that she had when people were not fully backing her in her activism and beliefs, she’s never changed.

I think that is what makes her so special as a human being; she’s humble, she’s wild, she’s hilarious, she’s passionate and she always wants to do the right thing and most of the time, the right thing that she really wants to do is not going to benefit her in any way, it’s always going to benefit other people and the fact that I think she recognized, probably a few years ago, that she truly did have a platform to make change in some way, influence change in some way, it’s not for everyone.

I think she takes that burden on and is really happy to run with that. I say it to her all the time, just I’ve changed, I’ve become a better person because of her. I think she sees other people around her too and maybe the struggles that they face, or the life that they’ve led that educates her and then that lends even more to her platform and then she’s pushing for something else and for someone else. I mean I could talk about it all day. But, she’s finally getting the recognition that we all know she probably deserved, I think. But, obviously, to get it on the stage that she got it at, the White House, was special. Yeah, just really proud of her, really.”

OL Reign Captain Lauren Barnes, who has played with Rapinoe since 2013:

I don’t think it’s always been an easy journey for her and we’ve seen her at her best and her at her worst and I was trying to think of a word this whole time that kind of sums her up, but I think it’s selfless both on and off the field. She literally would give all her resources, all her knowledge, anything she possibly can to all of us, so we can be successful in our own journeys, our own paths and I think that takes a very special human to do that, especially with where she’s at in life.

Like Laura said, I think my favorite thing about her is that she’s always been so down to earth. It’s never changed her for one minute and literally through the good and the bad. It’s a full-time job on top of a full-time job that she has, having to be what she does and what she’s passionate about.

She spreads that love. She’s contagious. She comes into the locker room, you could be a train on, you could be there for 10 years, she doesn’t give two s****. If you’re on the Reign and you wear that badge, you’re one of us and she takes you in like that and I think that’s what’s made our club so special because it is hard to bring 32 players together and mesh, but she’s a big part of why we’ve always been successful in the environment that we have in the club both on and off the field. You can see she pushes people to be their best versions of themselves and accepts everyone that way and I think it is truly incredible to see her at that platform.

But like Laura said, something that we knew years ago that she deserved and she was going to be. It’s just so fun to watch from afar. But yeah, we’re super, super proud of her and she’s touched us in so many ways and made us better in so many ways.

As KUOW “Week in Review” guest host Zaki Hamid shared on Friday ahead of OL Reign’s Cascadia battle, “Not only will [the Reign] take on the hated Portland Thorns on Sunday in a fierce rivalry game, but we can remind the Thorns and all of their fans that we have a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient on our team and they don’t.”

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