- World-class athletes, soccer champion Megan Rapinoe, and basketball star Sue Bird, have been together for nearly three years.
- After Rapinoe’s 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup win, Bird was there to cheer her on (and sneak her a kiss) from the stands.
- Here’s how this power couple met.
It seems that #RelationshipGoals is thrown around a lot these days. But I must say, if there’s any pair that seems to embody just that lately, it’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe and her girlfriend, basketball great Sue Bird.
Both have plenty of accolades to go around. As co-captain of soccer’s US Women’s National Team, Rapinoe, 34, and her team just won the FIFA Women’s World Cup. She’s also captain of Seattle’s Reign FC, while Bird, 38, has been with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm since 2002. She’s won three championships with the basketball team. And between the two of them, they have five Olympic gold medals. Impressive doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But aside from their athletic prowess, both have a long history of being socially active, speaking up on the topics of equal pay for female athletes, LGBTQ rights, racism, and police brutality. Rapinoe tends to be more high-profile when it comes to championing various issues. In 2016, she was one of the first white, female athletes to take Colin Kaepernick’s lead by kneeling during the National Anthem.
“I have opinions, and they can be set,” Bird told the Seattle Times in June. “And she challenges me in ways that I think can be hard at times because it forces you to look at things very differently. It’s been healthy for me. While my nutrition has always been healthy, my mind is a little healthier as well.”
So how did these respective legends find each other? Well first of all, they both live in Seattle, so that helps. But (of course) it all started at the most fitting venue: the Olympics. Catch their charming story below.
2016: Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird started dating after meeting at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Though both athletes play for and lived in Seattle, they hadn’t met until briefly seeing each other at a press event for the 2016 Summer Olympics, they shared in an interview at the ESPNW Women and Sports Summit.
Rapinoe ended up attending a few of Bird’s basketball games in Rio, and they had “kind of the same agent,” so they would all hang out during their off time. Bird jokingly said that her partner “slid into my DMs,” though fitting for both, the messages had a purpose. Rapinoe reached out to Bird to commend her for the recent #BlackLivesMatter protest her team had taken part in.
The couple recounts their origin story at the 2:40 mark in the video below.
“Our team had just worn the black shirts and made a stand if you will… we were chatting about that,” Bird said.
DMs quickly lead to texting, and once they were both back in Seattle, the rest was history.
2017: For the first time, Bird publicly opened up about her and Rapinoe’s relationship.
In a 2017 profile for ESPNW, for the first time in her career, Bird publicly confirmed her sexuality, despite her family and friends already having known for years. She also confirmed that she and Rapinoe had been dating since fall 2016.
“I’m gay,” Bird told the publication. “Megan’s my girlfriend….These aren’t secrets to people who know me. I don’t feel like I’ve not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you’re not talking about it, you must be hiding it, like it’s this secret. That was never the case for me.”
“It’s happening when it’s happening because that’s what feels right,” she said. “So even though I understand there are people who think I should have done it sooner, it wasn’t right for me at the time. I have to be true to that. It’s my journey.”
June 2018: Rapinoe and Bird made history on the cover of ESPN The Magazine‘s “Body Issue.”
Just as they’d both done in their athletic careers and through activism, the pair broke barriers by being the first openly gay couple to appear on ESPN The Magazine‘s legendary “Body Issue,” starring together in stunning nude cover shots.
“I think neither of us really wants to just do things and be like, ‘We’re the gay couple,’ but to have this really unique vehicle to actually do that, to celebrate who we are in our sport, but also the fact that we’ll be the first gay couple, is pretty special…Not only are we female athletes, but we’re dating as well. It’s kind of badass,” Rapinoe told the magazine.
For their cover interview, the duo said that Bird had a positive impact on Rapinoe’s eating habits. Rapinoe said she “saw the change in myself so quickly” in regards to her physicality. And despite being in a partnership made up of two world class athletes, don’t expect that fact to get to their heads.
“We don’t really compete in that way. I think because we are so competitive on the court and the field. When we’re home, it’s like you just want to chill,” Bird said.
July 2019: Bird defended Rapinoe against President Trump in an op-ed.
At the end of June, before soccer’s US Women’s National Team actually won the World Cup, the outspoken Rapinoe told a reporter that she was “not going to the f*cking White House” in the event her team won. In turn, President Donald Trump responded to her comments with a series of tweets, in-part reading, “… Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!”
In a move that quickly went viral, Bird penned an op-ed for The Player’s Tribune titled, “So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend,” in which she passionately (and humorously) defended Rapinoe in a candid article.
“You just cannot shake that girl,” she wrote about her girlfriend. “She’s going to do her thing, at her own damn speed, to her own damn rhythm, and she’s going to apologize to exactly NO ONE for it…It’s not an act with her. It’s not a deflection. To me it’s more just like: Megan is at the boss level in the video game of knowing herself. She’s always been confident…but that doesn’t mean she’s always been immune. She’s as sensitive as anyone—maybe more! She’s just figured out how to harness that sensitivity. And I think Megan’s sensitivity is what drives her to fight for others.”
As we all know, the women’s national team are now World Cup champions and during their win, Bird was in the stands to support and celebrate her partner’s accomplishment, sealing her loved one’s victory with a kiss.
Following her feat, Rapinoe had her own special message for the basketball champion that she shared on Instagram.
“I’m so in love with you. Thank you baby,” she wrote in a caption.