The University of Miami's recurring ‘What Matters to U’ event this year introduced Megan Rapinoe, a female soccer athlete for the United States and world-cup champion, as the guest speaker this October. In previous years UM welcomed guests such as “Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and actor Ken Jeong. However, this year’s speaker is a little different in that she has garnered a lot of attention recently.
Why the controversy? Rapinoe does not only play the role as a soccer star but also as a social justice warrior. Her opinions are as loud as the crowd that cheers for her team, and quieting down is not an option. She has spoken up for gender equality and same-sex marriage and protested against racism. She has also raised handsome amounts of money for soccer affiliated organizations. However, contrary to popular expectations, she's received a lot of backlash for her actions. Some don't tune in to hear her point of view on world problems--they tune in to watch her play soccer. They might be merely uninterested in her social beliefs and annoyed by her stances. This attitude may also be seen on the University of Miami's Twitter post announcing her arrival to the school to speak to students. Many of the comments in the form of memes and gifs used to present the students distaste in the University's choice in speaker says more than enough while vocalizing their opinions. One of the most attacking comments, which was hidden from the public by the UM Twitter account reads, “So you're suggesting an egomaniac self-centered liberal psycho should be speaking to kids..”followed by a gif that spells out “WTF”. Other less offensive tweets were also present.
There is no saying whether these opposers are current students, alumni and fans unless it is stated in their twitter handle alongside things like #America and Proud Republican. It is true that online comments such as this may give a bad look on our school. These commenters may have graduated two or twenty years ago but their comments still hold weight when it comes to our reputation. One look at our Instagram or Twitter comments and one might think the philosophy of the school and our students are completely different. Still, our reputation was somewhat restored the night of the event. Student and adult turnout was immense; the whole room was packed waiting for Rapinoe.
Students, faculty, staff, and other visitors from all over settled in the ballroom to hear Megan speak. The crowd filled with whispers and murmurs, waiting for the moderated talk to commence, and when she did finally come out, phones and cameras crowded the air. I was only able to stay for a part of the event, however, that small part heavily showed me that no matter how many haters Rapinoe has online as well as offline, her fanbase is strong and the showout proves it.
It also made it clear to me that UM’s reputation is safe in the hands of our current students and faculty. What Matters to U is an event curated by students and approved by the administration. The fact that Megan Rapinoe is here is proof enough that though controversy may follow us, our reputation is only getting better.