The soccer star and activist, one of Glamour’s 2019 Women of the Year, began her speech by thanking the person “I don’t feel like I would be here without,” she said.
Before naming the football player, Rapinoe described him as “someone whose courage and bravery was so bright and so bold, a person filled with conviction, unafraid of the consequences because he knew it really wasn’t about playing it safe, it was about doing what was necessary and backing down to exactly nobody.”
She continued, “So while I’m enjoying all of this unprecedented, and frankly, a little bit uncomfortable attention and personal success in large part due to my activism off the field, Colin Kaepernick is still effectively banned.”
Rapinoe, who helped the U.S. women’s national team win a second consecutive World Cup in July, was referencing Kaepernick’s influential protests in which he kneeled during the national anthem at NFL games to protest all forms of social injustice.
The NFL has been widely accused of blackballing the football player for his activism. He has remained unsigned by any team since becoming a free agent after the 2016 season.
Kaepernick announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he has been invited to work out for teams on Saturday in Atlanta. The announcement coincides with renewed calls for his return to the league, especially amid a series of recent quarterback injuries.
Rapinoe, like Kaepernick, has used her platform as an elite athlete to protest injustice.
In 2016, the star forward became the first high-profile white or female athlete to stand in solidarity with Kaepernick by kneeling during the national anthem prior to a soccer game.
Rapinoe, who came out as gay in 2012, has been outspoken about social justice issues, including equal pay – particularly as members of the U.S. women’s soccer team continue their fight for pay equal to that of their male counterparts.
She has also referred to herself as a “walking protest” of the Trump administration and memorably told Eight by Eight magazine that she wasn’t “going to the fucking White House” in June, prior to helping to win the World Cup.
Later in her speech on Monday night, Rapinoe said: “It would be a slap in the face to Colin and to so many other faces not to acknowledge, and for me personally to work relentlessly, to dismantle that system that benefits some over the determent of others and frankly is, quite literally, tearing us apart in this country.”
Rapinoe added that she knows in her “hearts of hearts” that she “can do more,” before later honoring other activists, movements and survivors of racist violence, including Tarana Burke, the Me Too movement, Black Lives Matter, Gloria Steinem, Harvey Milk, Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland.
“I’m not gonna act like my whiteness has nothing to do with me standing before you now,” she added, before later noting, “This is such a pivotal moment for us. There is so much momentum, but we have to move forward and we have to be better.”
Glamour’s other 2019 Women of the Year are director Ava DuVernay, actor Charlize Theron, activist Greta Thunberg, actor Yara Shahidi, writer Margaret Atwood, designer Tory Burch and the women of RAICES, an organization that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant families and refugees.
Watch Rapinoe’s entire acceptance speech here.