Trump’s tweets help put Rapinoe in the spotlight
President Donald Trump’s comments on Megan Rapinoe have actually benefited the breakout star of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, according to her agent, Dan Levy of Wasserman.
“I would say the net of it is it’s definitely helped,” Levy said of Trump targeting Rapinoe on his Twitter feed after a video aired last month of her using profanity while saying she wouldn’t go to the White House. Rapinoe went on to become the leading scorer for the victorious U.S. team and was awarded the Golden Ball, given to the best player in the tournament.
But Trump’s criticism of Rapinoe while she was competing made news headlines, not just sports headlines. And when she got back to the U.S. she made the rounds of not just the usual late-night entertainment shows but news shows as well, including CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” and “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
“It’s helped elevate her and introduced her to a whole other part of the culture,” Levy said. “You know she was on ‘Meet the Press.’ How many other athletes are on ‘Meet the Press?’ She is becoming a cultural icon.”
Levy is senior vice president of Olympics and women’s sports at Wasserman, which dominated the Women’s World Cup among other agencies by representing 13 U.S. players — more than half of the team. In the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Wasserman represented 10 of the 23 players on the U.S. team.
Levy also represents Alex Morgan, whose six goals during the tournament included a World Cup record-tying five in a 13-0 hammering of Thailand in the USWNT’s opening game. Morgan counts AT&T, Coca-Cola, Nike, Secret and Volkswagen among her sponsors.
“Alex obviously solidified her star power but also was a leader for the first time,” Levy said. “Now she is eye to eye with the biggest stars in the sports world. Her next step is she is actually building a new business, a lifestyle network and branding media company.”
Rapinoe’s sponsors include BodyArmor, Clif Bars, Hulu, Nike and Visa. Like Morgan, Rapinoe scored six goals in the tournament, but many of hers came at crucial moments. Rapinoe scored twice in both the Americans’ quarterfinal and semifinal victories. The 34-year-old registered a goal or assist every 48 minutes of World Cup action, tops among the competition’s 552 players.
“She broke out with her accomplishments on the field because her performance was otherworldly,” Levy said. “But, obviously, what was happening off the field sort of elevated her to a whole other level.”
The video that captured Rapinoe saying, “I’m not going to the ----ing White House” was actually recorded in January but was not released until June when the World Cup was underway. That prompted a tweet storm from President Trump, in which he wrote she should “never disrespect” the country, the flag or the White House. “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS!” Trump tweeted.
The political dustup earned Rapinoe fans among those who oppose Trump as well as detractors among those who support him.
“She got attacked, she got threatened, the whole deal,” Levy said. “But she leans into that energy and feels like the platform she has now can be used for a lot of good.”
More endorsements will come for Rapinoe, Levy said, but she also has a literary project and a possible movie in the works. Levy said he couldn’t share details but said, “Those [projects] will lay a foundation for whatever she wants to do.”
Wasserman agent Spencer Wadsworth represented six players on the team, the most of any agent. Among his clients were two first-time World Cup competitors — midfielder Allie Long and midfielder Lindsey Horan.
“Marketing-wise, it is abundantly clear the women move the needle with fans,” Wadsworth said. “The youth in this country — girls and boys alike — look up to them. They sell shoes, jerseys and just about anything else you put them on.”
Levy, meanwhile, is hopeful that in addition to individual player endorsements, more brands will sponsor the sport of women’s soccer. Shortly after the U.S. won, Budweiser announced it was becoming the first official beer sponsor of the National Women’s Soccer League as part of its commitment to support women’s soccer on a year-round basis.
Levy has been a pioneer in the business of representing female athletes since 1999, including women’s soccer players. Mia Hamm, who won two Olympic gold medals and two World Cups, was his first client and he also represented two-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time World Cup champion Abby Wambach.
“It took a while — 20 years — but we’re there,” Levy said. “We’ve got women making a lot of change.”
Editor’s note: This story is updated from the print edition.