The Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year title is staying in Northern California.
US soccer star Megan Rapinoe, raised in Redding, was named the 2019 winner, taking the honor from the since-dismantled Golden State Warriors, last year’s winners.
The Seattle Reign FC star led the US women’s national team to a World Cup victory. She shared the tournament’s Golden Boot with six goals and three assists as the United States swept through the group stage and knockout rounds, eventually besting the Netherlands 2-0 in the final. Rapinoe was named the player of the clinching match as she scored the winning goal on a penalty kick.
But Rapinoe is probably even better known for her voice off the field than her excellence on it. She’s an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and other social causes, like fighting for equal pay for women’s athletes and kneeling in support of ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 9, 2019
She declined to go to the White House after winning the World Cup as a protest of President Trump.
Rapinoe spoke to Bay Area News Group’s Elliott Almond last month about how her Redding upbringing contributed to her outspoken nature.
“People always say ‘How the hell did you come from where you came from and you’re doing all of this now?’” she said. “I feel like I’m exactly the people of my community, of my family, where I am from. it’s a blue-collar area and people say what they think and it’s pretty free right back.”
After winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or as the world’s top women’s soccer player, she pressured the men’s winner Lionel Messi and other stars to use their platform to combat racism and sexism as she does.
But that was no surprise, knowing how Rapinoe operates.
“I’m a famous soccer player who has a big, loud mouth and likes to speak in front of people,” she said. “That’s my most effective rap.”