“I think politics is purposefully made to feel overwhelming,” Megan Rapinoe says from her hotel room in the “WNBA bubble.” The co-captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team had just finished a week of strict quarantine in the middle of Florida and joined her girlfriend, WNBA star Sue Bird, in the isolated, heavily tested compound where the entire women’s basketball season is going to take place. While she’s in the #wubble, she’s got her work cut out for her: “My little pseudo-mission is to make politics cool.”
When we sat down with her last week for the latest installment of the Rolling Stone Interview: Special Edition, we talked about the ways that politics has woven into her career and fame as a soccer player — from kneeling with Colin Kaepernick to the equal-pay lawsuit she filed with her teammates — despite the constant messaging that athletes like her should stay apolitical. “I think the premise that athletes shouldn’t be political is just wack,” she explains. “Politics is gonna engage with you whether you engage with it or not.”
So, during quarantine she’s taking her platform and engaging right back: “Bring politics to a different subset of people who maybe aren’t reading every newspaper and watching every news show every day,” she says. When the CARES Act passed, she got on Instagram Live with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and asked her to explain how the bill impacts real people in America; while the nation was watching the White House COVID-19 briefings every day, she invited PBS New Hour’s Yamiche Alcindor to answer every question she’s ever wondered about being a White House correspondent. And three days after we talked, HBO announced her one-hour special, Seeing American with Megan Rapinoe, where she can take these same conversations to an even larger stage.
As Black Lives Matter protests swelled across the country, Rapinoe says it was an easy decision to throw her weight behind the movement. But she also took steps to hand her platform over to key voices that don’t have the kind of access that she does, namely black female activists. “These are the voices you should be listening to,” Rapinoe says. “Black women are at the forefront and at the center of all equal-rights movements, ever, for anyone. Whatever gains we’ve made, whether they made those gains or not, as black women, they were there helping people make those gains.”
With every step she takes further into politics, she does her best to remember where her influence came from: “I didn’t build this platform by myself,” she says. “[But] I have this microphone right now.… And I want to respect it. And I want to do right by it. And I think that we have an amazing opportunity to affect the world in a really positive way.”
This is the latest installment of our RS Interview: Special Edition video series, which features in-depth conversations with notable figures in music, entertainment, and politics. Episodes premiere every Thursday afternoon on Rolling Stone’s YouTube channel.