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World Cup soccer: Activist Megan Rapinoe says she is 'extremely American'

By Jake Elman
World Cup soccer: Activist Megan Rapinoe says she is 'extremely American'
Megan Rapinoe of the United State's Women's National Team said she will not visit the White House if invited. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

July 5 (UPI) -- United States Women's National Team forward Megan Rapinoe said she is "extremely American" when responding to critics who say her words or actions are anti-American.

Although Rapinoe has been an outspoken advocate for gender and racial inequality and LGBTQ rights, she has been criticized for not singing along to the Star-Spangled Banner during the Women's World Cup. Rapinoe knelt for the national anthem before two U.S. games in 2016 to protest "senseless violence" in the United States.

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Rapinoe also told Eight by Eight magazine she wouldn't go to the White House if the United States won the World Cup on Sunday. Rapinoe instead accepted an invitation, win or lose, from U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to visit the House of Representatives.

"I think that I'm particularly and uniquely and very deeply American," Rapinoe said Wednesday. "If we want to talk about the ideals that we stand for, all the songs and the anthem and sort of what we were founded on, I think I'm extremely American."

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Rapinoe hasn't shied away from being honest about her beliefs. She is one of the U.S. women's team players who are suing the United States Soccer Federation for equal play. She joined girlfriend and WNBA star Sue Bird to be the first openly gay couple to appear in ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue last year.

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Bird, who is out indefinitely from the Seattle Storm after knee surgery, will attend Sunday's Women's World Cup championship game in Lyon, France.

Rapinoe called herself a "walking protest" and said she has a "natural activist strain" in an interview with Yahoo! Sports earlier this year. Born in Redding, Calif., Rapinoe recalled standing up to bullies in middle school and held her ground against a rival soccer coach as a teenager after the coach shoved her.

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Rapinoe credited coming out as a lesbian as her "launching pad." She appeared in a 2018 video for the Play Proud initiative, which aims to make youth soccer safe for LGBT athletes.

"I learned very early on on this team that we have a specific platform, and we reach a lot of people," Rapinoe told Yahoo! Sports.

Rapinoe said she is grateful for being an American because she'd "never be able" to speak out the way she could if she were from another country. She is of the three U.S. women's national team captains, and said she will continue to advocate for her beliefs.

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"I think for the detractors, I would have them look hard into what I'm actually saying and the actions that I'm doing," Rapinoe said. "Maybe you don't agree with every single way that I do it, and that can be discussed. I know that I'm not perfect."

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Rapinoe did not play Tuesday because of a hamstring injury. She said she expects to be available for the championship game against the Netherlands.

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