Soccer’s Megan Rapinoe — famous both for her purple hair and her outspoken ways — slammed Sports Illustrated for its poor track record with women athletes at a ceremony honoring her as its Sportsperson of the Year.
“Am I only the fourth woman worthy of this honor in 60 years?” Rapinoe asked the sold-out crowd at the SI event at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday night. “I don’t think so,” she added.
Rapinoe, who helped the American women’s team win World Cup trophies in 2015 and 2019, went on to point out that there were few women writers and even fewer writers of color on SI’s staff.
Maven, the current operator of the Sports Illustrated magazine and Web sites, took over in October after agreeing to pay SI’s new owner, Authentic Brands Group, $45 million as a down payment on a 10-year licensing deal.
Still, SI must have known what they were getting into when they bestowed the Sportsperson of the Year honor on the outspoken co-captain of the US women’s national soccer team.
In 2016, Rapinoe generated controversy for kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter protest movement started in the NFL by then-quarterback Colin Kaepernick. This year, she feuded with President Trump and said she would not go to the White House if the team won the Cup leading up to their big win.
Trump blasted Rapinoe on Twitter — and ultimately did not invite the team to the White House after the Americans bested the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.
For good measure, Rapinoe then blasted FIFA, soccer’s governing body, for failing to offer women athletes the same pay as men, despite the American women’s winning track record.
Maven Chief Executive Jim Heckman was sanguine about the criticism, probably because most of it applied to past regimes.
“Obviously, we just arrived,” said Heckman, “and she definitely didn’t have a negative tone. She was encouraging more women writers. She was highly engaged and very appreciative.”