In the wake of the United States’ triumph at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, partially nude photos of soccer star Megan Rapinoe, taken for an ESPN photoshoot last year, resurfaced on social media.
The USWNT won the World Cup on Sunday by defeating the Netherlands 2-0. Rapinoe, 34, took home the Golden Ball, an award given to the tournament’s best player.
The former University of Portland standout has dominated headlines in recent weeks, both for her stellar play on the field and her criticism of President Donald Trump off of it. Jemele Hill, a progressive staff writer for The Atlantic, tapped into the public’s curiosity surrounding Rapinoe by tweeting out a link on Monday to an interview she’d conducted with the star athlete and her girlfriend, WNBA player Sue Bird.
The 2018 cover story for ESPN’s Body Issue included photographs of Bird and Rapinoe posing partially nude. Hill’s tweet elicited a massive reaction on Twitter, garnering a whopping 50,000 likes and more than 5,000 retweets.
@VP You mad bro?
— Prison Mike (@I_am_PrisonMike) July 8, 2019
Hill’s tweet also sparked an array of responses from social media users.
“My #POTUS and the 1st Lady,” wrote one Rapinoe fan.
“you have no idea what this cover and interview meant to me, a queer person who is the same age as these folks and who never thought I’d see anything like this. represent matters. thank you,” another commenter tweeted.
“Uh Oh, cue the triggered homophobes. What a powerful image. Beautiful,” wrote one user.
Many Twitter users remarked on the couple’s athletic physiques and aesthetics.
Some were highly critical of the U.S. women’s team star.
Is there a female anywhere in the world more thirsty for attention than Pinoe?
— P_R (@pr_uxc) July 10, 2019
“Sure is a good thing that those ‘feminists’ aren’t allowing themselves to be ‘objectified’ by ‘the patriarchy’, isn’t it? Right?!?” wrote one commenter.
Others referenced Rapinoe’s public clashes with Trump:
— SteelVols (@Witness151) July 9, 2019
Megan Rapinoe, a walking controversy
Overall, the reaction on social media revealed how Rapinoe has become a highly partisan figure: beloved by liberals who welcome her championing of progressive causes and denounced by conservatives who view her as unpatriotic and divisive.
Rapinoe’s political statements off the field – blasting the Trump administration, protesting during the national anthem, advocating for “equal pay” in women’s sports and cozying up to congressional Democrats – have drawn as much attention as her athletic performances.
During a Tuesday evening appearance on CNN, Rapinoe addressed the president directly, accusing him of “excluding people of color.”
“Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me. You’re excluding people that look like me. You’re excluding people of color. You’re excluding… Americans that maybe support you,” she said.
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