A few short weeks ago, I was living women’s soccer. I mean, more than usual. The Olympics were giving fans like me a steady stream of player interviews, photos and tweets. One night, I had a dream that I met Lori Lindsey and Megan Rapinoe, two best buds that happen to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team. Of all of the things my subconscious could have thought to ask them, I asked if I could interview them for Autostraddle. The next day I tweeted my dream (as one does) and Lori favorited my tweet and then we emailed and I was nervous/excited and then we talked on Skype. This is all to say– dreams do come true, you guys!!!
What have you been up to since the Olympics ended?
That’s a good question… Not much! I think a lot of us were joking around that we were all in a post-Olympic depression, just because we were on such a high. Obviously we won the gold and then we had about four days after the gold medal match to hang out, go to a lot of different events, and just see London. It was an amazing trip and an amazing journey.
It’s been about three years since I’ve really had any time off, so now I’m just relaxing and enjoying DC again. Becky Saurbrunn and I played a little bit of pickup together. We’re like, we’re not doing any running, but we’ll play soccer.
What was your Olympics experience like as an alternate?
It was great. Obviously I was bummed that I didn’t make the actual 18 roster, but there really wasn’t much time to dwell on that, because we were just thrust into everything right away. I was thrilled to be able to take part and I felt like I had the exact same Olympic experience as any of the 18 players, I just wasn’t able to show my skills and get on the field.
What was your role in the day-to-day of the tournament?
We trained, we stayed at the Olympic village, we did everything as if we were in the 18 except dress for the game. I was just sitting on the bench instead of in the stands. [laughs] No, I’m just kidding. It was great, I felt like a huge part of the team. I will definitely give a shout-out to the 4 alternates because I like to think that we were great for the team; I don’t think we caused any trouble, I think if anything we added some excitement and fire to the team. I was proud of us.
Pia seems like a pretty interesting person and an interesting coach. Do you have any Pia stories that you want to share or do you want to talk about your experience of having her as a coach?
Besides the fact that she never wears a bra and we have Dri-Fit Nike everything? That’s an issue. [laughs] We’re on national television and she’s jumping up and down without a bra! It’s awesome that she doesn’t have a bra — I’m all for that. Maybe if you had a stylish tank top on, that’d be ok, but not Dri-Fit at a soccer game!
I will say, though, on Pia’s behalf, for as much criticism or praise that she gets, she’s won two gold medals and we got silver in the World Cup, and no other coach has done that. At the end of the day, everyone did come together and we rebounded from last summer, which was a heartbreaker.
During the Olympics, the team was traveling all around the UK. You only got to London for final match. What was it like getting there and suddenly being in the middle of all the action?
I think the theme was, “Thank god we hadn’t been to the Olympic Village before we got there.” The gold medal match was on Thursday and we got there Tuesday night, and it was a good thing we didn’t get there much earlier, just because the Olympic Village is HUGE. There were 10,000 or so athletes and you’re just overwhelmed. You’re already so excited for the games anyway, and then you get there and it’s even more overwhelming than you’ve ever expected.
Who knows if the stories of everyone having sex in the Olympic Village are true or not — we weren’t witnessing any of that. There was just a lot of buzz, especially added on to the nerves that we already had going into the gold medal match. But once we got there and everyone settled down, it was terrific. It was so fun to finally be in London and to see the other athletes. As an athlete, you could sign up for any sporting event you wanted as long as they had enough tickets. We went to men’s basketball, women’s basketball, a handful of people got to go to track and field . . . it was fun, and you really felt like you were a part of the Olympics.
You’ve been a big advocate for LGBT rights through your Twitter account. Why are gay rights important to you?
Well, being a gay woman, I think it’s important. My mom is also a lesbian. My parents got divorced at a really young age. I don’t remember them together, I only remember my mom with a woman, with her partner of 25 years — or I should say, wife. So it’s always been a huge part of my family, and of me. I eventually came out when I was 20 or so.
I’ve always thought it was important to be proud of who I am; my mom taught me that. She’s my role model and my hero. And so is my dad and the rest of my family, I don’t want to neglect them or anything. It’s always been important for me to really express who I am and live a full life and not be afraid. Especially being kind of in the limelight, even though no one specifically asked me until now to talk about my sexuality in print, I’ve always lived an open life and been very proud of who I am. I definitely don’t want to lose that and I want younger LGBTQ girls and boys to see that.
So you came out when you were about 20. Do you have a coming out story that you want to share? I imagine it might be a little different than the average story.
I have an older brother and an older step-sister and I think they always knew, but I would say the best was with my dad. I was basically out to friends and to my mom, but my dad hadn’t really asked about it. I was probably 21 or 22 when I told my dad. He came to visit, I was playing with the Washington Freedom. I’m not pro-Applebees, so I hate putting this part of the story in there — but we’re from Indiana and my dad’s like, “Let’s got to Applebee’s and get a beer!” And I’m like, “Ok fine…” and so we’re at Applebees and he’s shooting the shit with me, and all of a sudden he says, “Do you like guys or girls?” And I’m like, “Girls…” and I just started crying. But it was such a relief, because I was a little bit…. not worried, because my dad’s been wonderful and a huge supporter of mine in more ways than just soccer, but I was worried a little bit about his reaction. You never want to deliberately hurt your parents or cause them stress. And ever since my family’s been terrific, and I surround myself with great people that are like-minded, I guess.
That’s so all-American to come out in Applebee’s! I wonder how many Applebee’s coming out stories there are.
And that’s the worst part! I mean, nothing against Applebee’s, but I would just never eat there. I wish it was more like, “I was at a local coffee shop sitting with my dad having this great conversation…” But no, we were at Applebee’s drinking beer. Great.
Are you dating anyone right now?
I am very, very newly single.
Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
No, that’s ok. But if you know any bachelorettes, let me know.
I think that could be the next U.S. Soccer YouTube video. It could be a singles ad for you!
Perfect, I think that’d be great. They could call into Megan [Rapinoe] and she can decide if she likes them or not, and we’ll go on a blind date. This is great.
What’s your type? Autostraddle has a lot of readers. I’m just saying.
Ok, yes! This is exciting. I don’t know that I have a specific type, because looking back at all my past girlfriends… you couldn’t ask for a more diverse group, oh my goodness. I don’t know… When I’m walking down the street, I’m very attracted people’s looks and styles, but when it comes to actually dating someone I’m not attracted to that many people. I can be pretty picky.
So it’s more about personality?
Yeah, I definitely have to feel the vibe a little bit. That’s why it’d be good to call in Megan and she can decide. Then we can go from there.
Have you experienced any discrimination as a gay athlete?
No, I actually haven’t. I’m not really sure why I haven’t — I don’t know if the soccer world is just a little more accepting. I don’t know if being a lesbian woman to younger males is exciting or something? I don’t know. But I haven’t experienced any backlash at all. I’m sure there could be some going on behind my back, but no discrimination that I’m aware of.
I think that could be partly due to the fact that you, and Megan, are so clearly comfortable with yourselves. It’s clearly not a big deal to you guys and you’re not hiding anything. I think other people pick up on that very quickly.
Yeah, I would also joke like, “Well maybe people just don’t know I’m a lesbian.” And then my ex was like, “Ok, that’s the biggest joke I’ve ever heard. Doubtful.” I mean, I’m not trying to hide it, but I could have a misperception about myself, and she’s like, “No, you don’t. No one is walking down the street thinking you’re straight.” And I’m like, “Ok, so be it. That’s even better then.”
You’re obviously very close friends with Megan Rapinoe. How did you become friends?
Well, we’ve always known about each other. We’ve known each other for about 6 years and before that I knew of her. And then when you’re thrust into this environment with the national team, you’re kind of forced to become friends with everyone. With that said, we all do get along. You obviously have closer friends than not. But I think Megan and I had an instant attraction to one another — and not like, “I want to go sleep with you,” but we have similar thoughts about life, we have the same terrible humor that’s only funny to us, usually. We have a lot of similarities, we love to shop… Our families got along great when we were over in Germany in the World Cup. There was instantly a good connection there, and we’ve pretty much been inseparable ever since. She’s great.
Did you guys talk to each other about coming out and what that would mean for your careers and your lives in general?
I’d never take credit for her coming out by any means, but a lot of people would push me and say, “Lori, you should contact people, you should come out. It’s important. Every LGBTQ person should be out and proud. That is so important for our community.” And I agree wholeheartedly with that.
We didn’t know how the World Cup was going to blow up last summer and we’ve kind of all just turned into — I’m not going to put myself in that category, but Megan has turned into an instant celebrity, essentially. After the World Cup last summer, I mentioned to her, “You should really push your agent and talk to him about coming out. You really should. I feel like that would be huge. No one is going to want to know about me, you have a lot more popularity than I do. You should do this!” And without hesitation she was like, “You’re right. I think this is terrific.” And it was just a matter of timing and stuff like that. But like I said, I don’t want to take credit for her by any means, that was all her doing. But you have friends that support you and you feel comfortable and you’re like, “All right, this is the time for me and if someone wants to write about this then absolutely.” I think that was huge for her going into the Olympics.
You both seem like pretty competitive ladies. On a scale from 1 to 10, how pissed are you that she came out before you did?
I’m fucking pissed! I am so angry! I was like, “Oh… I’m so supportive… I’m going to pull a Tonya Harding on you when you’re not looking! You know I’m gayer than you are, this is not fair.” No, I think Megan is a wonderful role model for anybody — for straights, gays, everybody. So more power to her. I’m just proud that I can follow in her footsteps. [laughs] …I’m just kidding.
It’s funny though, because even though she came out, I feel like my life is out. I’m saying this to you now and it will be printed, but that’s not going be a shock to very many people.
What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite book?
The Power of One is probably one of my favorite books. I love that book. I just finished The Art of Racing the Rain— that was a perfect book for the Olympics. I was on the bus crying from one venue to the next. I would look around and everyone is listening to music, and I’m crying on the bus. I like a lot of autobiographies. Keith Richards’ book, Life, I’ve been in and out of that. It’s a good book. I’m also very interested in strength and conditioning and the fitness aspect of sports and soccer specifically, so I read a ton of blogs about that.
Do you have any pre-game rituals?
Yeah, I’m definitely very routine-oriented. I’ll always shower before the game and I’ll always shave. And then I have a playlist of such random songs…
Oh god, I’d have to look. Some of them are so embarrassing that I don’t even know if I would want to say. This isn’t that weird, but I have some Florence and the Machine on there. But then I’ll have some random slow 80s songs on there, that probably no one else would get pumped from. Country… I’ll listen to a ton of country. I’m scrolling through my phone now. Elton John’s Sacrifice… Fleetwood Mac’s Silver Springs… This is hilarious: I love Tracy Chapman, and she does this one with Pavoratti, “Baby Can I Hold You Tonight.” And it’s like a mix of Italian opera and Tracy Chapman and it’s awesome. You should look it up.
I will, that sounds like the most random thing ever.
It is so random, but it is such a good version.
You’ve played for both of the women’s professional soccer leagues that have been in the U.S. and there’s now talks of a new professional league here. What do you think it will take for a women’s pro league to stay afloat in the United States?
That’s tough, because obviously I’m not a business owner. There’s definitely enough interest from the fans. I think we need to start at a lower scale. Maybe semi-pro-ish, where people get paid but maybe we train at night so people could work camps or have some sort of day job. Just start slowly so we can get the word out there. There seems to be some interest from quite a few teams right now, but I also think maybe latching on to the MLS if they’re interested could be a possibility. It took a while for the MLS to get going and now look at it. I think they have 19 teams and it’s huge. They’re doing really well, which is great for soccer in America in general.
I also think we need to be honest: we need owners with deep pockets who are willing to put in the money. I think, from our end, we need athletes that are patient and know that we can be a part of something special, but we’re not going to be the ones necessarily getting rich off this. Even though each year it might not be perfect, we need to set our boundaries, and this is why I think it’s important to be unionized early on – so that we can say these are the things that we really want, whether it’s health insurance, maximum salaries, etc. Then people can choose to play in it or not, so we don’t have some people making astronomical amounts and some people that could make more money working for minimum wage. I think the gap needs to be closed quite a bit more. If we want a league to survive, we’re going to have some sacrifices, and so will the owners. It’s definitely going to have to be more of a combined effort.
With no professional league in the U.S. currently, what’s next for you career-wise?
We’ll see. We have this victory tour, hopefully I’ll be taking part in that this fall. Fingers crossed, even if there is a semi-pro league, I would love to play in it. I’ve been very fortunate with the leagues I’ve been able to play in – both of the leagues have afforded me the opportunity to be with the national team. The timing of the leagues and my hard work while playing with those teams have helped me get called into the national team, and I will always be indebted to the leagues for that. I would like to be a part of getting a league going that’s sustainable.
Also, this is the time. We are popular right now, people are taking interest. I’m at the dermatologist today, and she’s like, “You play soccer? Oh my god!” And then I’m taking pictures with the dermatologist. It’s hilarious! So I think this is the time. We can start small and give us the time to slowly but surely get something going that can last and that’s sustainable. And there’s such good talent.
What role do you think queer fans play in the growing popularity of women’s soccer?
Oh my gosh, the biggest role! The queer fans are the best! They’re everywhere! I remember growing up and being with all of my mom’s lesbian friends and going to women’s basketball games in Indiana. I was like, “These are the best fans!” They are such great supporters. Even my mom and her wife have season tickets to the Indiana Fever, the WNBA team, and they’re such loyal fans. I think we need to accept that and embrace it. I don’t feel like people are going to not come to games because there are lesbian fans in the stands. Let’s market towards that. But I think a lot of people get caught up in marketing to lesbians and marketing towards kids. I think 25- to 55-year-old men are huge into women’s soccer, and they can be some of our biggest fans as well. So I think it’s about getting the word out there and getting people excited and understanding what the league is all about. In terms of queer fans, we wouldn’t have survived that long in the other leagues if we didn’t have them.
Do you have an idea of what you want to do when you retire from professional soccer?
If I could never retire from soccer, I would. It’s the best life. It’s brought so many wonderful people into my life, whether they’re still in my life or not, I’ve met some amazing people. It is a lot of travel and at certain times you can think, “Ok this is my job,” and that can be stressful, but I love my life and could not be happier with where it’s brought me today. I hope that I can still find that passion as I go forward, but like I said earlier, I love the strength and conditioning aspect [of sports], so I would love to empower younger women. I think there’s a stigma against lifting weights and just being a really strong female and strong athlete, so I would love to give back and empower younger girls through that. That is maybe an avenue I’d like to take, I’m sure it could branch off in many different ways. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to navigate that yet, but that’s kind of where I see myself heading.
Who were your sports heroes growing up?
I loved the women’s national team– Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly. And then it was the best part of my job to eventually be able to play with some of them — Mia Hamm with the Washington Freedom, Kristine Lilly with the National Team. When it’s happening, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m playing with them.” Then you take a step back later on and you’re like, “I played with some of the best female athletes and soccer players ever.”
When I was growing up, with the ’91 World Cup, it was really new. My dad bought me a video tape of all of the games from China when they played there and I just watched it all the time, and [read] every Soccer America [Magazine] and everything they were ever in. They were my true heroes, and honestly they still are. You look at these people and the duration of their career, and how they’ve carried themselves and how they’ve taken care of their bodies. I thought I was a pretty good athlete, and then you look around and think, these women are incredible athletes, and I’m honored to be in their lives and have played with them.
What were you like as a little kid?
Oh my god, I was such a tomboy. I think I was more of a little boy than my brother. I loved to be outdoors. Besides soccer, I was so into skateboarding — I had a subscription to Thrasher Magazine. My dad built me a quarter-pipe and we would put it in our little cul-de-sac and I would ride my little skateboard. I thought I was so cool. And I wasn’t! I wasn’t at all! But then I wasn’t very good.
I also thought I was going to be a big-time celebrity actress in Hollywood. Then I took an acting class in seventh grade and basically my parents told me that I needed to stick with soccer, because I was terrible. I wasn’t a wild child, I was a good little kid, but I was bizarre. I just lived in the fantasy world that I was going to be some major superstar either through skateboarding and acting. So random.
Were you always so into soccer? Did you ever think about quitting or did you always know that you wanted to do this for the rest of your life?
No, around the time I was doing the acting classes, I actually quit soccer. My dad is a great guy, but he wasn’t the guy that’s going to sit down and help us with math problems or anything. He was more like, “Ok, well you’re going to latch on to soccer and I’m going to push you as much as I can.” He was definitely an integral part of where I am today, but he also, at a young age, really, really pushed us. We had to go out and practice soccer, do this fast footwork everyday. He put goals in the backyard and stuff. For me, who was this happy-go-lucky, free spirited kid, who was wanting to skateboard and had crazy chapped lips and a semi-mullet…. I was like, no, this is too much for me at this age! So I quit, and I think it was more of a way to rebel against my dad.
But it was a perfect time: I got to do the acting classes that I was interested in and weed that out of my life once I knew that was not right. Then I found my way back to soccer after I barely took a year off, and that’s when I fell in love. From then on, I was practicing on my own. Basically from eighth grade on I had this burning desire to be the best at soccer I could ever be, and no one was going to be able to break that, whatever they said to me. I would juggle, I would train with by brother’s high school team, my dad put these goals in the backyard. I mean, everyone works hard, and I’m sure everyone was working just as hard, but in my head I was telling myself, ‘I’m doing more than anybody.’ I had this fear of failure, but I was also just going for it. I love this sport, this is my ticket out of Indiana. If I couldn’t be a celebrity through skateboarding or acting then soccer here I come!
What’s your favorite meal?
Well I love middle eastern food. There’s this place in DC called Lebanese Taverna and it’s probably my favorite thing ever. Chicken shawarma? I could eat that all day.
There’s this place we go to when we’re in Portugal for the Algarve Cup every March called the Clay Oven, it’s an Indian restaurant, it’s so good. So delicious. That rivals Lebanese Taverna.
I’ll check it out next time I’m in Portugal.
Clay Oven. Little hole-in-the-wall. It’s amazing. Write it down. I don’t know how much you frequent the Algarve, but if you’re there….
Totally, it’s one of my favorite vacation spots.
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