Megan Rapinoe should fight for a more pressing goal — equal pay
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I get it, the protest by Megan Rapinoe. I truly do. She wanted to support her fellow professional Colin Kaepernick in not standing for the National Anthem, and then added her own protest about LGBT issues.

Fair enough. She is free to feel strongly. And as one of the more recognized members of what was the world’s best women’s soccer team, she is an example to woman and young girls everywhere, my daughter included.

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The issues about whether she has the right, whether her actions dishonor the troops, or are even traitorous have, at this point, been so worked over they look like one of those post-match grass fields that FIFA has decided women shall never get to play on. Perhaps it’s time for Rapinoe to rethink her protest for a moment. 

Rapinoe’s actions distracted from the final game of Heather O’Reilly. And instead of us all paying close attention to the action on the pitch, we were watching Rapinoe, on one knee, on the bench and not on the field with her team.

I get it, I really do. But we need our team back. And Rapinoe has become a distraction.

Rapinoe has said her protest comes from the heart. But I am not sure what she can win in the short term.

Instead there is a fight that the women’s team should, is, and needs to fight. It is the fight to be paid properly and fairly for their service. The women’s professional league did not work as we had all hoped but it is a national shame that our queens of the turf are so underpaid compared to the far less competitive men’s team. It is a farce that the old men of FIFA refuse to let you play on grass.

Women’s soccer on the international level is not some junior league. Women soccer players deserve equality and just reward for their play. 

Fight for that and Rapinoe will have us all behind her. It might be unfair but her symbolic stance is taking away from the equally important are far more attainable immediate goal. Rapinoe and her teammates can take a stand for equal pay in women’s soccer which would invariably resonate across the political landscape and help the cause of equal pay for women in all fields. 

Make no mistake, Rapinoe is a role model. She is example to young women around the country and the globe. Standing, or in this case, kneeling for equal pay for women’s soccer players, whose success on the pitch outstrips any accomplishment by their male U.S. soccer counterparts, would serve as example to young women and girls to demand equal compensation and treatment in the workplace. 

Rapinoe can’t win her fight alone. And her team and her fans need Rapinoe right now for a different battle. Fight the fight that needs to be won now. 

And I promise once Rapinoe and her teammates have that, I will join them on one knee for as long as they want.

Gelb is the director of the Washington Media Institute and a co-founder of DCWitness.org. Follow DCWitness on Twitter @dcwitness


 

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