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She won the World Cup, was player of the tournament and top scorer, then stole the show at the ticker tape parade with both her swagger and her speech – but Megan Rapinoe is also a polarising figure who inspires anger as well as adoration. Why?The summer so far has belonged to the 33-year-old co-captain of the US women’s soccer team who scored six goals as the reigning world champions retained their crown.She’s been on talk shows and magazine covers, and children across America – girls and boys alike – are out practicing their football skills, dreaming of becoming the next Megan Rapinoe.But just a day after that triumph in France, while Rapinoe and her teammates were probably still partying, public posters of the star back in her homeland were being vandalised.Homophobic slurs were scrawled across them, and New York police say they are investigating a possible hate crime.Online, where her goal celebrations and dance moves sparked joyous memes, you will also find comments denigrating her attitude and activism, some even questioning her patriotism. One conservative commentator insists she is actually a bad role model for girls. “They look up to her and see not a disciplined, respectful sports icon, but a groundlessly bitter, petulant celebrity who is totally ungrateful for the opportunities she’s had,” wrote Brad Polumbo.While most critics say their dislike for the athlete has nothing to do with her sexuality, the kind of American hero that Rapinoe represents – strong, gay and female – is clearly triggering to some.”Nobody knows what to do with Megan”In a viral video filmed by a teammate, Rapinoe was seen yelling “I deserve this” into the camera before taking a swig of champagne aboard the open-top bus driving through Manhattan.Such a display of unabashed confidence is not customary for women, says University of California Berkeley history professor Bonnie Morris. Women are traditionally expected to “put themselv
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