Megan Rapinoe

Why Megan Rapinoe uses her platform to bring attention to social issues

Why Megan Rapinoe uses her platform to bring attention to social issues

Megan Rapinoe is one of the most influential athletes on the planet.

The United States Women's National Team star made waves all summer with a critique of President Donald Trump, her argument for equal pay and fight for equality in all walks of life.

Rapinoe and her girlfriend, Sue Bird, a probable Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, were honored by the Warriors on Wednesday night during the team's LGBTQ night.

After a summer spent speaking out and inspiring droves or people, Rapinoe was asked why she chooses to use her platform to address important social issues. The 2019 Golden Boot winner didn't disappoint.

"I think it's multi-faceted," Rapinoe said on "Warriors Pregame Live." "Part of it is just that affects me directly and all of my teammates every day. It affects [Sue]. And for our whole career, this is something that we deal with all the time. ... Part of it is just seeing how impactful it really is. People come up to me all the time and say [that] either I've inspired them, or made them feel more comfortable or kind of given them the inspiration to do something. [Sue's United States women's basketball team] has been so successful, [the USWNT] has been successful. If we can use that in some way to make the next generation better, to inspire them and just to let them know that it's OK that you're different, but to do something about it and stand up and be counted."

That's my Sportsperson of the Year.

[RELATED: Why Rapinoe, Bird want more events like Dubs' LGBTQ Night]

Rapinoe had a summer to remember. She led the USWNT to a World Cup title and became an icon to both those who passionately follow soccer and those who never had seen a match.

I can't wait to see what she'll do for her next act.

Why Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird want more events like Warriors' LGBTQ night

Why Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird want more events like Warriors' LGBTQ night

As American soccer star Megan Rapinoe told The San Francisco Chronicle's Ann Killion on Monday, "out LGBTQ athletes are nothing new" in professional women's sports.

Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird, a probable Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and Rapinoe's girlfriend, came out as lesbian in 2016. Nearly a third of 2018 WNBA All-Stars were publicly out, according to Outsports, while Rapinoe was one of 40 out players at this summer's World Cup in France.

That is not the case in men's professional sports. Former MLS defender Robbie Rogers was the first openly gay men's athlete when he joined LA Galaxy in 2013, and NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in any of the four major North American professional men's sports in 2014 when he suited up with the Brooklyn Nets. No active player in the NBA or the rest of the "big four" men's sports has followed in Rogers and Collins' footsteps since.

Bird and Rapinoe said they hoped nights like Wednesday -- when the Warriors honored the couple during "LBGTQ Night" and hosted a postgame panel afterward -- one day could help open the door for more men's professional athletes to come out.

"Incredibly important," Bird told NBC Sports Bay Area's Kelli Johnson on "Warriors Pregame Live." "The NBA is in a position where they can control a lot of narratives, and to take away the stigma that [Rapinoe and I] feel very strongly connected to is huge."

The incredibly outspoken Rapinoe told Johnson that part of the reason she feels so compelled to use her platform to advance causes she cares about is the hope that it can inspire others. Representation matters, and men playing pro sports currently don't have nearly as many predecessors who came out to look to for inspiration as Bird and Rapinoe did. 

[RELATED: Warriors getting dose of 'real' NBA with injury-riddled start]

"I think something like [Wednesday night] starts to set the culture prior to these players coming out because clearly they're not coming out yet," Rapinoe told Johnson. " ... But if you don't ever see it anywhere, if you don't see [an LGBTQ] night at any of the NBA teams, if you don't see anyone in uniform [or the front office who's] gay ... what's gonna make you feel comfortable to do that? To kind of create the culture first ... so that once these players are ready to come out, then we're ready for them to come out."

Rapinoe and Bird hope nights like Wednesday are the first step in creating that culture.

Warriors vs. Suns live stream: How to watch NBA game online, on MyTeams

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AP

Warriors vs. Suns live stream: How to watch NBA game online, on MyTeams

Wednesday night marks the end of an era. 

Longtime Warriors broadcaster Jim Barnett will broadcast his final television game as Golden State hosts the Phoenix Suns at Chase Center. Barnett has been the Warriors' TV analyst since 1985, serving as one of the team's voices for multiple generations of fans. He'll get the send-off befitting of a legend Wednesday night. 

The Warriors are also hosting "LGBTQ Night," and are set to honor American soccer star Megan Rapinoe and WNBA legend Sue Bird at the game and host them in a panel afterward. Rapinoe and Bird have dated since 2016. Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts, the first gay male executive in the four major North American men's professional sports, will also take part in the panel. 

[RELATED: Cauley-Stein can't wait to 'finally' make Warriors debut]

Coverage begins on NBC Sports Bay Area at 6:30 p.m. with "Warriors Pregame Live," followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. Here's how to watch Warriors-Suns online and on the MyTeams app. 

When: Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 p.m. PT ("Pregame Live" at 6:30 p.m.) 
TV Channel: NBC Sports Bay Area
Live Stream: MyTeams App