The American winger was crowned as the world's greatest female footballer earlier this month, after lifting the Women’s World Cup as joint-Golden Boot winner last summer.
Argentine superstar Lionel Messi won the men's award for a record-breaking sixth time, while Sterling was ranked 12th for 2019.
Speaking in the January 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out now, Rapinoe says: “First of all, he’s fantastic on the field. To be as exceptional and composed, and as strong and brave as he is, in the climate he’s in... it’s very impressive.
“He’s had to deal with so much stick throughout his entire career, and that started at a really young age. His bravery in speaking up about the racism that he’s faced is inspiring to me.
“He’s someone who will have an impact far beyond just what he’s doing on the field.
“Personally, I don’t feel like anyone who’s been subjected to racism should have to be the one to stand up and discuss it. Every other player should almost be shouting over the top of them to condemn what’s been happening.”
Rapinoe – a contributor to the Common Goal movement, where football personalities donate 1% of their salaries to worthy causes – has regularly used her status to fight equality battles including wage discrimination, LGBTQ rights and racism.
The American icon has declared that she wants to do more for society than be a world-class footballer.
“I get plenty of personal attention and financial reward – so to take all of that and not use it to give back just doesn’t seem right to me,” she tells FFT.
“They are things that affect me personally – our wage fight, being a gay player – but honestly it’s all kind of the same. It’s basic human rights, respecting people and living in a world where we have equality; where people are free to be themselves.
“If the only thing I ever do in my life is be a successful soccer player, that sucks – sorry, that’s just not good enough for me. That’s not the kind of life I want to live.
“We have enormous problems all around the world. There’s so much to be done, but also so much we can do. To not use that for leveraging good is selfish, for me.”
Read the full interview with Megan Rapinoe in the January 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out in shops and available digitally from Tuesday, December 17. Our belting awards special features a return of our 100 Best Players in the World list, plus exclusive interviews with Brendan Rodgers, Santi Cazorla, Vincent Kompany, Gilberto Silva, Kleberson, Teemu Pukki, Wesley and many more. We also find out how Lyon Feminin became the most dominant side in world football, remember a mad decade of fun and visit Japan to find out more about their very own Barcelona-lite, Vissel Kobe.
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