Megan Rapinoe has been named Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsperson of the Year, marking another individual achievement the United States women’s national team co-captain in 2019.
The accolade comes after the U.S. successfully defended its World Cup title last summer, becoming only the second team to win back-to-back women’s World Cup titles. In addition to winning the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot at the tournament, Rapinoe became a household name in the United States and elsewhere for both her sporting ability and her political beliefs. After years of advocating for equal pay for the USWNT and speaking out on other human-rights issues, Rapinoe’s star rose not just as a talented athlete, but as someone who uses her platform for larger issues.
“That really means a lot to me because it’s like, yes, this is a sports award,” Rapinoe said in a video interview with Sports Illustrated. “You have to go out and perform, but really me winning it, I feel like it’s like a win for the good guys.”
The player, as a result, will be on the cover of the magazine’s Dec. 16 issue. Rapinoe is only the fourth woman to receive the honor, which Sports Illustrated has been awarding since 1954. She is the first individual soccer player to be named Sportsperson of the Year; the 1999 U.S. team that won the women’s World Cup was given the honor that year.
Rapinoe joins fellow 2019 honorees retired football player Warrick Dunn (The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award), basketball player Luka Dončić (Breakout of the Year), soccer player Ally Sentnor (SportsKid of the Year) and high school football player Bryce Young (SI All-American). The group will be recognized in a ceremony Monday night in New York City.