She began her remarks with a lighthearted “shout-out to women this year. Every woman! We’re just killing it the whole year. So shout-out to just women in general.”
Then she turned more serious. Delivering a message that “we can move on from losing alone to the belief in winning together,” Rapinoe singled out the quarterback who has been out of the NFL since the spring of 2017 after his decision to kneel during the national anthem before games as one of her inspirations.
Kaepernick, she said, demonstrated “courage and bravery” and was “filled with conviction, unafraid of the consequences. Because he knew, it really wasn’t about playing it safe. It was about doing what is necessary and backing down to exactly nobody.”
“While I’m enjoying all of this unprecedented — and, frankly, a little bit uncomfortable — attention and personal success, in large part due to my activism off the field, Colin Kaepernick is still effectively banned from the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of known and systematic police brutality against people of color, known and systematic racial injustice, and known and systematic white supremacy,” Rapinoe told the New York audience in Alice Tully Hall.
“I see no clearer example of that system being alive and well than me standing before you right now. It would be a slap in the face to Colin, and to so many other faces, not to acknowledge, and for me personally, to work relentlessly to dismantle that system that benefits some over the detriment of others, and frankly is quite literally tearing us apart in this country.”
Rapinoe’s solidarity with the former NFL quarterback extends back to his initial decision not to stand for the national anthem. In 2016, she, too, took a knee.
“I am disgusted with the way [Kaepernick] has been treated by the fans and hatred he has received in all of this,” Rapinoe told espnW’s Julie Foudy at that time. “It is overtly racist. ‘Stay in your place, black man.’ Just didn’t feel right to me. We need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color are treated.”
“We all have injustices we are facing — for me personally, a very public fight with our federation over why we don’t deserve to be paid equally; some people even say we do our job better. I don’t know! It’s crazy!” she said. “I still know in my heart of hearts and my bones that I can do more. And that we can do more. And I know that because we just have to. We must. It’s imperative that we do more.”
Girls’ soccer players from Harlem’s Mott Hall Middle School presented Rapinoe with the award, and Rapinoe went on to thank her mother for teaching her the value of caring and sharing.
She “impressed upon me and my twin sister at a very young age, ‘You ain’t s--- ’cause you’re good at sports. You ain’t s--- ’cause you’re popular. You’re gonna be a good person. You’re gonna be kind. And you’re gonna do the right thing,' " Rapinoe said, quoting her mother. " ‘You’re gonna stand up for yourself, always. You’re gonna stand up for each other, always. And you’re damn sure going to stand up for other people. Always.’
“She taught us that in kindness and in caring and in giving a s--- and sharing — that’s abundance. That’s the kind of culture we want to live in. I feel like we live in this scarcity-type culture; one of my best friends always says that. That’s not the world I want to live in. I think we can move on from losing alone to the belief in winning together.”