When the U.S. Women's National Team beat Japan to win this year's World Cup soccer tournament, it was the largest U.S. TV audience ever for a soccer match. And the millions watching got to see two of the star players, Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe, play as openly lesbian.
Wambach, who is married, and Rapinoe, who is engaged, are rare elite LGBT athletes who are out publicly. This fact, combined with their efforts in helping their U.S. team win the title, has led Outsports to name them our female athletes of 2015.
Wambach's final game as a pro soccer player is Wednesday and the World Cup proved to be her crowning jewel in an illustrious career. What was really cool from our standpoint was how out she and Rapinoe have become. This shot of Wambach kissing wife Sarah Huffman after the World Cup was captured by photographers worldwide:
Photo by Michael Chow/USA TODAY Sports
It bears repeating that while there zero out players in the NFL, NHL, NBA or MLB, and only one in the MLS (Robbie Rogers), the U.S. women's team had Wambach and Rapinoe, and there were 18 total in the World Cup. U.S. Coach Jill Ellis is also out, while Ali Krieger has made references to being comfortable with her sexuality without stating what it is. Rapinoe has been out publicly longer than Wambach and she stated in 2012 while she came out:
"I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out . . . I feel everyone is really craving [for] people to come out. People want -- they need -- to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol' U.S. of A."
Wambach and Rapinoe have proven to be great role models for women in sports and lesbians in particular and we salute them.
Our runners-up for the award were:
- Tina Hillman, Iowa State shotputter. She was named All-American and more importantly 2015 Capital One First-Team Academic All-American.
- Seimone Augustus, starting guard for the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx. She is married LaTaya Varner and was an early and outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage.