The U.S. women's soccer team has set the bar high for their sports in our country, their on-field success surely inspiring thousands of girls across from California to Maine to Florida to follow in their footsteps.
As much as they have accomplished on the pitch, their impact off the field is arguably greater, providing a firm, forthright voice on other important fronts, using their platform as elite players to try to make a difference in their society.
It's always uplifting to see athletes who are aware of their status and embrace it. They know their beliefs are impactful and are willing to speak out. The FIFA World Cup is soccer's biggest stage and the American women seized the microphone and from day one and aren't letting go.
Their 13-0 rout of Thailand shined the national light on the subject of pay equality with the less-successful U.S. men, who did not qualify for their last World Cup, while the women's team won the championship in 2015.
The women are presently involved in a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation and lawmakers, including multiple 2020 White House candidates, are piggybacking on their fight to push for pay equity legislation.
More recently, Megan Rapinoe raised eyebrows and undoubtedly ruffled some stuffed shirts in Washington, D.C. when, with a well-placed expletive, she said she wouldn't go to the White House if the team was invited. The comment was made in a January interview, but the video clip didn't air until this week. An outspoken critic of Donald Trump's policies, Rapinoe stood by her remarks, save for the cuss word because her mom wouldn't like it, in an interview Thursday. She also kneels during the national anthem as a show of solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Rapinoe's teammate Ali Krieger tweeted in support of Rapinoe, who is gay, saying that she, too, would skip a White House visit.
"I don't support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable," Krieger posted.
U.S. star Alex Morgan told Time magazine last month that she would not visit the White House either if the team was invited.
"I don't stand for a lot of things the current office stands for," Morgan said in an Associated Press story, pointing particularly to the family separation policy at the southern border."
People who follow me on Twitter know my political stance, but my main point here isn't to pitch those personal opinions. It's to commend a group of strong women for taking advantage of their athletic prowess to make their voices and causes heard at a time when minds, ears and eyes seem to inexplicably closed. They're more than, as some anachronistic old men in suits believe, just pretty faces who can kick a ball.
As they take on France in today's semifinals, we should all be cheering for this team for representing what the red, white and blue truly means, you know, liberty and justice for ALL, as well as blazing the trail for the next generation of girls who will someday walk in their cleats, soccer players, lawmakers and maybe even presidents alike.