Megan Rapinoe's outstretched arms and tilted-back head was the celebratory power pose that launched a thousand memes — and about as much criticism, too. But Rapinoe's response to critics who have called her "arrogant" is equally as fierce.
“In the same breath that someone would call me arrogant, they wouldn’t call Tom Brady or LeBron James or Michael Jordan arrogant,” the U.S. Women's National Soccer team co-captain pointed out in a new interview with Marie Claire. “Even when they do call male athletes arrogant, it’s almost in a positive way. But when it comes from a woman, they’re like, ‘How dare she? How dare she know she’s one of the best players in the world? How dare she take a moment to let 55,000 fans absolutely adore her?’ You know? We don’t allow women the space to be that way.”
After all, she does have plenty to be proud of right now. Not only did she win her second FIFA World Cup title in July, but Rapinoe was also awarded two of the tournament's top honors: Golden Ball for best player and Golden Boot for top scorer.
The notoriety, of course, brought with it her share of haters. Piers Morgan tweeted on July 28, that she has a "stupendous ego" and, weeks later, called Rapinoe "such an arrogant piece of work." Meanwhile, the New York Post's Kyle Smith wrote in a July article that the soccer player "has become America’s anti-sweetheart," also adding such adjectives as abrasive, unpatriotic, whiny, and, yes, arrogant.
Before the World Cup began, Rapinoe also revealed that she would not go "to the f*cking White House,” should the USWNT win the tournament. Unsurprisingly, this even led Donald Trump to fire back that Rapinoe "should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag" and that she "should WIN first before she TALKS!"
Despite all the noise, Rapinoe shared an inspiring message for other women in her Marie Claire interview: “You deserve the space that you can take up. And you can take up as much space as you need.”
She, of course, wasn't the only member of the USWNT to draw the ire of critics. Alex Morgan's tea-sipping moment during the team's semifinal match against England led the star forward to later defend herself. “I feel there is some double-standard for females in sports to feel like we have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much or in a limited fashion," Morgan told reporters in July, per ESPN. "You see men celebrating all over the world in big tournaments, grabbing their sacks or whatever it is. And when I look at sipping a cup of tea, I am a little taken aback by the criticism."
The double standards weren't just symbolic either. In light of a glaring U.S. soccer gender pay gap, back in March, all 28 members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in March, alleging gender discrimination regarding wages, working conditions, and general investment in the teams.
For their part, the U.S. Soccer Federation denied the gender discrimination allegations outlined in the lawsuit, according to The Wall Street Journal. Instead, the organization claimed that any pay discrepancies were “based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.” WSJ later published an article revealing the women's team has actually been generating more revenue than the men's team, however.
Either way, Rapinoe and her teammates are continuing to kick butt and take names — both on and off the field.