Megan Rapinoe Should Be As Loved As Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is loved by millions for telling it like it is, for looking, sounding and acting like the world's biggest superstar and being brilliant on the pitch. But for some reason Megan Rapinoe is criticised for the same qualities Ibra is praised for.
Search 'Rapinoe arrogant' on Twitter and you'll be met by a host of furious football fans criticising the US women's national team midfielder - and, fortunately, a good number defending her.
Ibra's arrogance on the other hand, as with that of Conor McGregor, Tyson Fury and Michael Jordan, is seen as an essential part of their popularity. Rather than bring Rapinoe down, we should celebrate her.
The tag of 'arrogant' has come from several incidents, both on and off the pitch, that stem from her increasing profile during the 2019 Women's World Cup. They are also attached to her being outspoken on various issues.
Rapinoe was one of the first high-profile non-NFL American athletes to join Colin Kaepernick in taking a knee for the US national anthem, in solidarity with the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and the black community.
Ahead of winning the World Cup final last year, where the 34-year-old won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball, she was asked if she would visit the White House should the USA become world champions. The winger unapologetically replied: "I'm not going to the f**king White House."
Her left-wing, anti-Trump, politics are undoubtedly the source of some of the hatred towards her in her own country, where kneeling and criticising Donald Trump hasn't gone down well at all.
American radio presenter Dennis Prager wrote an article calling the OL Reign player "arrogant, a fool and a lowlife."
Prager explained why he used fool and lowlife, not that either was warranted, but even he couldn't back up his use of "arrogant". It simply seems to have become the byword for dislike of the former Lyon star.
Trump buddy and TV presenter Piers Morgan got in on the act after a clip of the player signing a young fan's ball at the ESPYS Awards went viral.
Rapinoe didn't talk to or look at the child while signing the ball, but the clip didn't come with any context and began just as she signed the ball. Many famous footballers wouldn't have even gone as far as signing it.
Jokes about how Virgil van Dijk should win the Ballon d'Or because of his good looks or the fact that "you can't win [a World Cup] without gay players" from the out lesbian haven't gone down well with everyone.
She is undoubtedly controversial and no one is saying you have to agree with or love everything she does. But there is no doubt that Rapinoe is entertaining, socially aware - having fought for equal pay for the women's team - and brilliant on the pitch.
In an era where the lack of characters in football is often decried, amidst a world a PR and media training, Rapinoe is one of the characters we're searching for. In being vocal on social issues for so long, she has been a step ahead of many of her high-profile male counterparts who have only begun to speak out in 2020.
We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY.- Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) May 2, 2020
There might only be one major difference between Rapinoe and Zlatan - and disliking the US women's star for no reason might uncover an uncomfortable truth. So maybe it's time we all learned to embrace her.