Search Posts
Search For Jobs

Professional Soccer Player Kaiya McCullough Using Social Platform To Magnify Her Voice For Change

Kaiya McCullough | Professional Soccer Player | Washington Spirit

I think being an athlete gives me an opportunity to reach a larger audience, simply because of the universality of sports.

Kaiya McCullough

Professional Soccer Player

Washington Spirit

× The interview with Kaiya McCullough was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

It was recently publicized that the Washington Spirit waived your contract so that you can pursue your career overseas. Tell us about what you find appealing about the international soccer scene. How do you feel like you’ll grow with this experience?

With all honesty, I never really had much interest in going overseas to play soccer. My interests lie very much with politics in America, so being around in the United States was always where I saw my soccer career progressing. However, with COVID-19, it became really hard for me to get minutes (being a rookie, and given the position I play) since there weren’t very many games happening this season.

I think that playing overseas will allow me to get my footing in the professional game, and allow me to get into game shape should I return to the U.S. to play again.

Since 2017, you’ve been following the lead of Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe by kneeling for the national anthem. You have been a leader in the social justice movement and a passionate voice that is much needed. How do you plan on continuing your activism overseas? How will that differ from your activism in North America?

I think giving myself the space to heal from and reflect on some of the racial trauma that I have experienced in America is going to be an overall great opportunity for me to grow as a person, and therefore as an activist. Obviously, my activism about racial issues in the U.S. is really important to me, so I plan to stay informed, to do my part, and most importantly vote while I’m away.

One of the ways I will be trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy in regards to my activism while overseas is by continuing my book club. I started BLCK right before I left for Europe, so I am excited to continue to see it through! I think my activism will differ slightly just because of the distance, but I also think that it has been made pretty clear how powerful social media can be during this pandemic and civil rights movement. I’m just hoping I can continue to make an impact!

You have a unique sports career as you have been equal parts athlete and activist. Tell our readers about your social justice platform and why you feel like sport can emphasize it.

Regardless of what you do, or who you are, you have a platform. It may be small, it may be incredibly large, but it’s there.

I think being an athlete gives me an opportunity to reach a larger audience, simply because of the universality of sports. There are obviously a lot of soccer fans across the world, so I think that gives many footballers the opportunity to influence those around them. I decided to kneel in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick when I was a sophomore in college, however, the thought process behind that decision was many years in the making before that.

My platform is very much centered on racism against Black and BIPOC in America, especially when examining instances of police brutality, healthcare and education discrimination, hate crimes, etc.  I think that by experiencing racism first hand, and by educating myself on the racist institutions and systems within our country, I found my voice.

But from a young age, it was sports that built the confidence that I needed to share that voice, and sports that gave me a platform to easily share that voice.

Some of the most powerful and vocal activists in the world have been athletes, from Arthur Ashe to Jackie Robinson, to Serena Williams. I hope one day I can have an influence like them!

You were a star within the NCAA, a passionate player in the NWSL and now embarking on another huge adventure in Europe. What are your biggest hopes for your future as an athlete?

My biggest hope is that I can continue to bring positive change to the world, and influence the people around me to open up their hearts and minds. The only way that true change for racial equity and equality in America can happen is if we work together collectively to dismantle the systems of oppression that have been maintained from our past. 

That being said, that’s a pretty large, idealistic goal, so a more specific one is hopefully inspiring young Black girls to pursue their dreams, whether that’s with sports or anything else. I know that for me, growing up and seeing Black women represented on the soccer field would have been immeasurably inspiring and motivating, so hopefully, I can be that for the next generation.

Emma Greer Emma's Final Thoughts

Kaiya McCullough is a strong voice in the fight for racial justice. Arthur Ashe, Jackie Robinson, Serena Williams, and many more paved the way for her, and now she will pave the way for the next generation of athletes coming behind her. Sport has given Kaiya McCullough and so many athletes a platform to invoke change and the industry has a responsibility to support their athletes and their efforts. Kaiya McCullough is not only an amazing soccer player but someone who I think we can all learn from and celebrate for her role as an activist too. I know that Kaiya McCullough will continue to inspire many young girls and all kinds of athletes on the field and in life.

Connect With Kaiya McCullough