Alabama's Najee Harris explains why he draws inspiration from USWNT's Megan Rapinoe

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·3 min read

Alabama running back Najee Harris has honored United States women’s national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe with the highest form of flattery. In 2019, he first imitated the two-time World Cup champion’s outstretched arms goal celebration after hurdling into the end zone.

At his Rose Bowl media availability on Tuesday, he went deeper into his appreciation of Rapinoe and why he’s motivated by her.

Najee Harris on drawing inspiration from Rapinoe

Najee Harris.
Alabama running back Najee Harris takes inspiration from Megan Rapinoe. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

When Harris was asked why he honored Rapinoe with the celebrations, he started with a basic answer.

“She’s from California first of all, and she listens to Nipsey. Nipsey Hussle, one of my favorite rappers, too,” Harris said.

Rapinoe is such a big fan she used the late rapper’s lyrics to celebrate the 2019 World Cup victory on Instagram. She won the Golden Ball for top player and Golden Boot for the top goal scorer at the tournament in France.

His admiration for her goes beyond a common taste in music. Harris gave a thoughtful answer on why one of football’s brightest male stars looks up to a woman.

“Really all the stuff she stands up for,” Harris said. “She’s a feminist and how the females, how women in the world get treated unfairly. And the pay, how they get paid different and different stuff than men. So she really stands up for all that. I like how she does that. And obviously the social injustice that happened, she plays a part in all of that.

“For her to be a woman and saying all that stuff, it can be scary for her for being a woman in what they would say is a man’s world. And her just playing a part, standing up, not listening to all the naysayers out there and really just standing up for what she believes in. It’s motivating and it’s inspirational. Me, as a male, I guess you could say, maybe not too many males would say they look up to a woman nowadays. But I really look up to her, you know, just for what she does outside of sports.”

Harris played an integral part in the Alabama football team’s march for social justice in August. It was to protest systemic racism after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Harris led the march next to head coach Nick Saban wearing a “Defend Black Lives” T-shirt. He addressed the crowd at the event.

Rapinoe gives Harris a shoutout, cheers ‘Roll Tide’

Rapinoe responded to the appreciation by giving Harris a shoutout on her social pages. It appears she’ll be rooting for Alabama in the Rose Bowl on Friday. Or at least for the star running back, telling him to “hurdle someone for me!” It’s a reference to his highlight-reel hurdle that led to the first touchdown celebration in Rapinoe’s honor.

Rapinoe has called herself a “walking protest” and her background in social justice is well-known. She took a knee in solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and has become a leading activist voice ever since. She is part of the USWNT’s fight for equal pay, a leading voice on racial justice and a prominent supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and legislation that supports it.

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