“I want to shout: ‘Cristiano, Lionel, Zlatan, help me!’” she said, via ESPN’s translation of the magazine interview. “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?”
Rapinoe won the Ballon d’Or, awarded by the magazine annually to the best player of either gender, after a year in which she dominated international soccer on and off the pitch. She led the United States to its second consecutive World Cup championship in France, where she won the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Boot as the top player. She was named to the FIFPro World XI and FIFA’s top women’s player in the world.
It’s only the second year the Ballon d’Or was awarded to a woman.
The accolades all came while she used the platform of an ascendant year for women’s soccer to push for the American women’s national team to receive equal pay as the men’s team and for LGBTQ civil rights.
She told France Football the Ballon d’Or was a recognition of her success as an athlete and activist.
“On the one hand, I am a good player. On the other, my activity away from the pitch brings me support as people understand I am acting to find solutions to our society’s problems," she said. The idea is to empower others to speak louder.”
“I am lucky to have a bit of talent to lead these fights,” she added. “I have no fear, so I say what I say. Traveling all over for conferences and meetings exhausts me, but you have to be on the front line to improve things in our world.”
But international men’s soccer figures have been notably silent in comparison, often avoiding divisive political issues even as the game has struggled mightily with racism, sexism and homophobia among players and fans.
“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.”