September 22, 2020

‘The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck’ – world’s best female footballer Megan Rapinoe uses platform to tackle US financial crisis

'The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck' – world's best female footballer Megan Rapinoe uses platform to tackle US financial crisis

‘The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck’ – world’s best female footballer Megan Rapinoe uses platform to tackle US financial crisis

USA football international gives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez audience of 2.2 million followers

By
Molly McElwee

Megan Rapinoe celebrates scoring –
Megan Rapinoe appeared live on Instagram with a very special guest CREDIT: REUTERS
On Tuesday Megan Rapinoe’s 2.2 million Instagram followers received a notification that the US women’s football captain was going live on the platform. And they may well be forgiven for expecting her to be about to delve into the intricacies of her self-isolation boredom or perhaps about to post her latest workout.

But instead, the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner had invited American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to join her live broadcast, to discuss the bill the US government passed this week, a £1.7 trillion financial stimulus package to tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a year that has seen her star rise and her achieve unparalleled success, the two-time world champion has had to contend with much criticism. ‘Arrogant’, ‘un-American’, ‘overrated’, ‘all talk’, are just some of her charges. Even President Donald Trump got involved, calling her out for saying she would not visit the White House if invited.

But she has consistently used her heightened platform to great effect, most pertinently in promoting her and her teammates’ lawsuit against their national federation for gender discrimination as they lead the fight for equal pay in football.

Now, during a global pandemic, Rapinoe again continued to use her platform to do something meaningful – and useful. Alongside the most high profile female disrupter in American politics – another woman publicly denounced by Trump – Rapinoe forewent the loo roll challenge most footballers are posting about (as fun as that may be) and instead read from a list of questions sent in by her followers. She asked Ocasio-Cortez to explain the intricacies of the new US bill, so the average American could understand how they could access the financial aid the government was proposing.

The government is giving out $1,200 cheques, but how can Americans access this funding? What should small businesses be doing to get support? What are people entitled to if their landlords are threatening eviction from their homes? These were just a handful of the topics covered over their 47-minute conversation.

“I think people don’t realise how the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck,” Rapinoe said, when discussing how her mother, who is a waitress, has had to apply for unemployment benefits for the first time in her life due to lockdown in her area. Ocasio-Cortez agreed, telling the story of her own mother, a school secretary who is also classified as an hourly worker and is in a similar situation.

The common thread throughout was clearly voiced by Rapinoe: “What are the main benefits in this bill for the average American?”

As Ocasio-Cortez dished out practical advice to the 300,000 viewers, Rapinoe nodded along. “I know I have a million questions about it, I’ve been trying to understand it so I can try and speak intelligently about it at least a little bit,” she said. If the entire exercise was not a show of humility, I am not sure what is.

Throughout, they also challenged the limitations to the bill, including discussing the fact undocumented people in the country were not accounted for in the legislation, despite many paying their taxes like the average citizen, and Rapinoe groaned as Ocasio-Cortez highlighted the dubious regulations around the bailout large corporations are due to benefit from, as compared to those in place for small businesses.

“People are struggling, they’re scared, they don’t know what to do and they need help,” Rapinoe said. “[And] it’s become very clear who is important, who’s not important, where the money’s going, who is getting it first, who is getting it easily and just what this administration is all about.”

Though Rapinoe’s political stance was evident in the criticism she laid bare of the Trump administration, it was secondary to her commitment to helping people fully understand what this package could do for them during profoundly uncertain circumstances.

In this file photo taken on July 10, 2019 USA women’s captain Megan Rapinoe (R) celebrates next to NY Mayor Bill de Blasio in front of the City Hall
Rapinoe replicated her famous victory pose in July 2019 amid chants of “equal pay” during a parade for the women’s World Cup football champions CREDIT: AFP
She, along with her USWNT team-mates, has been accused of being selfish and even greedy in their equal pay demands. But despite her detractors’ views, Rapinoe’s advocacy is not, and has never been, fuelled by self-interest.

She first rose to national recognition in 2016, when she became one of only a handful of athletes to take a knee during the national anthem, in solidarity with American football player Colin Kaepernick who was protesting police brutality against minorities.

Then, during ceremonies for the countless awards she has picked up in the last nine months and interviews she has given, it is often the stories of others that she brings to the forefront. She has spoken about Raheem Sterling’s outspokenness on racism in football; she has recognised Kaepernick sacrificing his career for his cause; she has commended the only openly gay player in the MLS, Collin Martin.

“Lend your platform for other people, share your success,” she said at the Fifa Best Awards, to a room of the most famous and powerful people in football.

Watching her deliver a public service announcement of sorts on her Instagram this week, by enlisting a congresswoman who is well-versed on the pivotal and what could be life-changing support at this time for the average worker, few can accuse her of failing to practise what she preaches.

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