Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe are about to square off in their final NWSL match. While the two will be foes on the pitch, they have been trailblazers for women in sports off of it.
Ali Krieger has had Nov. 11 circled on her calendar for nine months. The NJ/NY Gotham FC defender, approaching her final game as a pro athlete, knew she wouldn’t be anywhere but on the pitch that day. Mere hours after announcing her retirement in March, the only thing the decorated footballer remained relentless on was bringing Gotham back to soccer excellence.
Fast forward eight months and Krieger’s manifestation is a full-fledged reality. On Saturday, she’ll lace up for the last time, and do her part to win Gotham its first-ever NWSL title. Standing in their way: the OL Reign. What makes this weekend’s showdown even more bittersweet is that Krieger will face her good friend Megan Rapinoe, who is also calling it a career once the season ends.
The two had a laugh at the circumstances back in September, an even more obvious indication Krieger wouldn’t settle for anything less than hardware.
Two Tales of Activism
Krieger and Rapinoe have been a part of the growth of women’s soccer, but it’s their activism away from the pitch that catapults them to legendary status. Leveraging their popularity in the sport, both Krieger and Rapinoe have used their platforms to advocate for issues close to them, primarily in the LGBTQ+ and social justice space.
Krieger told The Cut in April that it was her own coming out that helped encourage her ex-Orlando Pride teammate Marta to do the same:
“Visibility is everything. If you can see it, you can be it. We didn’t have it when we were young. If we did, I probably would have figured out that I was queer when I was like 12 or 13. I want to be that for people, including my peers. I didn’t want any of our teammates to feel like they had to hide because they were afraid of losing their jobs, even at the club level, even if they weren’t on the national team with the big spotlight…”
Rapinoe shared her coming out story in a 2012 profile for Out Magazine, saying at the time that people need “to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.”
The dynamic duo has also been vocal about transgender rights in athletics. Rapinoe was one of 40 Olympic and Paralympic athletes to sign an open letter in April on behalf of the advocacy group Athlete Ally. The note protested the federal Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, which would ban trans girls from playing sports on school teams that align with their gender.
“The policing of who can and cannot play school sports will very likely lead to the policing of the bodies of all girls, including cisgender girls,” the note read. “This will deter girls from participating in sports and create additional barriers. Denying children access to a place where they can gain significant mental and physical health benefits, and learn lifelong lessons that come from being part of a team and working hard towards your goals does not protect women in sports,” a portion of the letter read.
On the social justice front, Rapinoe became one of the first major athletes to support Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality in September 2016. The California native took a knee for the first time prior to the Seattle Reign’s match against the Chicago Red Stars. Despite the criticism she received (and continues to endure), Rapinoe has remained staunch in her decision, and since then has only increased her commitment to representing marginalized groups. Her actions even contributed to the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors’ decision to repeal Policy 604-1 in June, which required players to stand during the national anthem.
Finally, Krieger and Rapinoe have been at the forefront of the equal pay conversation. Thanks to years of work (along with those of many others), the United States Soccer Federation, the United States Women’s National Team Players Association (USWNTPA), and the United States National Soccer Team Players Association (USNSTPA) reached an agreement that mandated “equal pay and set the global standard moving forward in international soccer” in May 2022.
It’s progress, but Krieger told Boardroom in March that more needs to be done to keep the new generation of soccer legends from facing the same.
“Equality and respect is something I think we have done a good job of getting to this point and it’s at a really good start, but we have to continue to implement that season after season,” she said. “And I think the direction that women’s soccer is going — or women’s sports in general — is very healthy. But it’s also getting that investment and support from others who might not be directly in contact with soccer or play the sport. Having their backing can help us move forward together.”
Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe: By the Numbers
It wouldn’t be a proper sendoff if we didn’t break down the illustrious careers of Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe. Below are some of their largest achievements, from international wins down to individual honors.
|Award||Ali Krieger||Megan Rapinoe|
|FIFA Women’s World Cup||2 (2015, 2019)||2 (2015, 2019)|
|Olympic Medals||2 (Bronze: 2021, Gold: 2012)|
|CONCACAF Women’s Championship||1 (2014)||3 (2014, 2018, 2022)|
|SheBelieves Cup||2 (2016, 2020)||4 (2018, 2020, 2021, 2023)|
|NWSL Best XI||4 (2014, 2017, 2019, 2023)||1 (2018)|
|Ballon d’Or Féminin||1 (2019)|
|FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Ball||1 (2019)|
|FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Boot||1 (2019)|
|IFFHS CONCACAF Woman Team of the Decade||1 (2011-2020)||1 (2011-2020)|
|UEFA Champions League||1 (2008|
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