U.S. Olympic soccer star comes out

Megan Rapinoe is learning to be comfortable in the spotlight. She’s got to be; it’s enthusiasts who keep soccer alive.

“We need fans; we need people to watch our games,” she says. “I don’t think it happens like it does in male sports, just because we’re playing. We do a good job of opening up and having our fans know us. But there’s a line we don’t cross, because then they will dive in.”

Some fans already have. Who can blame them? Rapinoe -- also a member of the U.S. women’s national team and a midfielder for the Seattle Sounders Women -- is one of the most well-known women’s soccer players in the world. So it’s no wonder she’s inspired some enthusiastic fans — like the German guy who tattooed her likeness on the back of his calf.

“That was strange — really strange,” she says. “I’m cute, but I’m not that cute.”

With her unmistakable shock of bleached-blond hair and upbeat personality, Rapinoe inspired legions of devotees last year after making her first World Cup appearance as a midfielder on the U.S. women’s team. She had a key role in the team’s heart-pounding wins and instigated an unforgettable moment when she grabbed a microphone and sang “Born in the U.S.A.” to the crowd.

Now, obsessed fans collect confessions of undying adoration on Tumblr pages. She has a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike. And she’ll be traveling to London to represent the United States at the Olympics this year. It’s a crowning achievement for the 27-year-old. But Rapinoe has decided to pull off another landmark in women’s soccer: to come out and publicly discuss her sexuality.

“I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out,” she says. “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.”

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