Unless you were living under a rock this past weekend, you probably already know that the U.S. Women’s National Team earned their fourth star when they won the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals on Sunday. Among the stars of the team is Megan Rapinoe, the purple-haired star player that not only helped the team pave their way to the finals, but also won the Golden Boot for being the top scorer during the tournament and the Golden Ball for being the best all-around player. For Rapinoe, this Cup was everything she could have wanted and more. She described the feelings of winning a second consecutive World Cup “surreal,” and was in disbelief at how wonderfully everything had gone for the team. The only thing that was missing was her older brother, Brian, whose birthday was also on Sunday. Megan Rapinoe’s brother has been battling addiction for years.
After winning, Rapinoe gave Brian a special birthday shoutout during an interview with Fox News Sports. Brian, Rapinoe’s 38-year-old older brother, was unable to make it to the month-long tournament in France due to his long-term stay in jail as a result of drug-related crimes. In a special published by ESPN detailing the complicated sibling relationship, Megan Rapinoe candidly discusses her brother’s addiction, sharing that she once worshipped the ground Brian walked on, which makes her birthday wishes all the more heartbreaking. In many ways the siblings are as similar as can be, and Rapinoe credits Brian with inspiring her to begin playing soccer.
“He played left wing, so I played left wing,” she says in the ESPN interview. In almost every way, she emulated her older brother. That is, until Brian started smoking marijuana at only twelve years old.
Brian’s Battle with Addiction and Incarceration
“From the start, I was hooked,” says Brian. And it didn’t stop there. At just fifteen, Brian was arrested for the first time and sent to juvenile detention for bringing meth to school. By eighteen, he had moved to even harder drugs, and had aligned himself with white supremacist gangs in prison to ensure that he had access to his drug of choice– heroin. Heavily involved in the prison gang life, Brian’s charges continued adding up. Half of the sixteen years he spent in prison were spent in solitary confinement due to drug and gang-related assault and possession charges.
In 2010 Brian was back in prison for selling heroin. When he found out that Megan was going to be playing in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, he rallied together the prison to watch the games. The same happened again in 2015, when the team headed up to Canada and won their first Cup since 1999.
“That was the hardest,” Brian recalls. “I’m not there to witness it, I’m not there to be a part of it. It’s just another thing in their lives that I’m missing out on.”
Rapinoe’s brother’s addiction hit a new low in 2017. Not too long after Megan was again making headlines for kneeling during the national anthem, Brian hit his rock bottom. After almost assaulting a cellmate for breaking his needle while injecting heroin, Brian took a step back and assessed how he had been living his life. His sister had done so much with her time and her platform to support what she believed in– he asked himself, what have I been doing with my life?
Focusing on and Fighting for the Future
Not long after his radical self-reflection, Brian enrolled himself in self-improvement and rehabilitation classes provided by the California prison system. As part of San Diego’s Male Community Reentry program, inmates can either work or take college classes, and each class he completes reduces time from Brian’s sentence. Even more importantly, Brian has eighteen months clean. After almost 25 years of using and selling hard drugs, he’s called it quits.
In the future, he wants to work with the juvenile delinquency program to keep kids from walking the same path he did. While Brian might had grown a distaste for all the tattoos he got during his years as an addict in the prison system, he’s hopeful that they’ll have an impact on the youth he interacts with.
Although Megan might’ve looked up to him when they were children, the roles have been reversed with time.
“I want to make a difference,” Brian says. “I want to be like Megan.” Megan Rapinoe’s brother’s battle with addiction proves that substance abuse can affect everyone, no matter how talented or charismatic.