The worlds leading international goalscorer talks to Matthew Hall about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, civil rights and whether she would have knelt for the anthem
Wolfpack, Abby Wambachs new book, is subtitled How to Come Together, Unleash our Power, and Change the Game so with that in mind lets get this over quickly: the leading all-time international goalscorer (men or women), two-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup winner, and co-captain of the US womens national team, would have taken a knee.
Wambach retired from playing in 2015 and just missed former teammate Megan Rapinoes protest the following year in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Had she still been wearing the United States womens team shirt, Wambach says shed have joined Rapinoe, the first white professional athlete to kneel during the national anthem. Wambach acknowledges the complexities of celebrity protest but also the power her status in world soccer gives her. She sees activism by high-profile athletes in recent years as the grandchild of civil rights actions that took place during the 1960s across the United States.
I know that I talk with my wife a lot about this in the way that we parent our children, Wambach says. She was looking at some pictures of civil rights marches with our kids and one of them asked her, Mommy would we have marched with the Freedom Riders? She was about to say Yes, of course, but then one one of daughters said, No, Mommy, we wouldnt have been marching then because we are not marching now.
Wambach says the question for people with privilege and power is whether you are on the sideline or in the game: Would you be marching for Black Lives Matter? Would you be supporting or kneeling with Colin Kaepernick? Do I understand what it is like to be a person of color in our country? No. But would I like to hope and think that I would have knelt alongside Megan Rapinoe? You are damn right I would have.
Wambach, now 38, has not taken a well-worn path for many former athletes as a media pundit (she tried it and didnt like it) or elite coach (although she has coached childrens soccer teams). Instead, Wambach is chanelling the drive she had on the field into activism, and attempting to redefine what it means to be a role model.
Its a role that has found her. For a friendly match in February, players on the US womens national team wore the names of those who had inspired them on the back of their shirts. While some players took to the field with Beyonc and Cardi B on their backs, others wore the names of civil rights activist and feminist Audre Lorde, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Team captain Alex Morgan? She chose to wear Wambach.
Alex texted me the day before the game about it and I felt as touched as I had for any award or championship, Wambach says. I actually got to watch that game with my parents which was a double bonus for me. It was such a beautiful idea and celebration. Women have a tendency to remember how they got to where they are and that inspiration comes from so many different forms and so many different people. For me, Alex is a symbol of someone who is relentless in her pursuit and I admire her.
She pauses to consider some of the company she was included with. RBG, come on! Wambach says. Can you get better than her? Have you seen RBG lift weights? She is the baddest out of all of us!
So whose name would Wambach have worn had she been leading the teams forward line? My wife has inspired me probably the most out of my person in my life, Wambach says before considering the soccer field. Mia Hamm had a huge impact on my life not just as a player. When I was new to the team I watched how she treated her teammates. I watched how she interacted with fans. I watched how she dealt with sponsors and her off the field business decisions. Mia was the symbol of the impossible. She was the symbol for womens sports.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us