Joanne O’Riordan: Christen Press a winner in more ways than one

USA and Man United star’s daily activism challenges stereotypes and breaks barriers

 Christen Press, right,  of Manchester United celebrates with teammates Ella Toone, Jackie Groenen and Lauren James after scoring against West Ham at Old Trafford. Photograph:  Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Christen Press, right, of Manchester United celebrates with teammates Ella Toone, Jackie Groenen and Lauren James after scoring against West Ham at Old Trafford. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

 

Christen Press is one of a kind. A two-time World Cup winner with the United States, an Olympic champion, a globetrotter, an entrepreneur and a leader and activist, she has seen it all.

But, at 32 years of age, she knows it’s about the present as much as the future. In fact, she has learned throughout her career that there are only a certain amount of controllables in her life.

“I was having dinner with my teammates and I said, ‘I’ve just come to this place where I’m happy, I can enjoy learning under our new coach, and I enjoy being around my teammates, and I enjoy playing soccer and wanting people to be happy.’

“I think the idea is to look at myself as a whole and happy person, which is a little bit different than a person with all the accolades. My idea is that you create barriers when you compare yourself to your neighbour, so you have to let go to be better.

“I truly believe that you could have miracles and do amazing things that we’ve never seen before with that will to live and just by letting go. I don’t know if they’re successful yet because it goes against what mainstream culture says, but I hope that I can be an example of that.”

Overall, Press understands that it has been a devastating and challenging year for everyone. With the tools that she has learned through her football career and life, she thinks it’s vital to remember the why, especially when she hears that Ireland has been in the longest lockdown in the EU.

“Just to keep our families safe, our loved ones safe, and our larger community safe. It’s so important. I think what comes to mind is when I am also in lockdown, everywhere, that I’ve been in the United States and in Manchester and when I’m lucky enough to be in camp, we’re in almost complete isolation all the time, and I think I try to remember how beautiful any moment can be and that there’s beauty and magic all around you even when you’re in the inside of a hotel room like I will be shortly. . . .

“The moment is perfect as it is and all we can do is accept. I think there are really positive things happening globally. I hope in Ireland as well so that we can safely unite as a community again soon.”

Sitting in her hotel room in Stock Island, waiting for the series of friendly games the US women’s national team are about to play, Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Meghan Klingenberg are preparing themselves to launch another collection in their company Re-inc.

Re-inc was developed in response to their equal pay lawsuit against US soccer. The idea around it was to reimagine, redefine, and recreate the world we live in while challenging stereotypes and breaking barriers.

“When we won that World Cup, we as the four founders felt like we weren’t being valued in the same way that we were actually feeling from the perception of the world. We got back home, and the world just wanted to hear from us, wanted to embrace us, and because of the structure of sport and industry, we had to go through other companies and other people’s agendas to be able to connect.

“We created Re-inc as a company because we wanted a direct line to our community, speak directly to the people, bet on our own value, and create our own opportunity. We sat down, and we said, ‘Well, what do we want to create in the world?’

“We all immediately aligned on this idea of reimagining the status quo and disrupting outdated norms, and actually building a company that represents all the ideals that we fight for as female athletes, as individuals, actually created in the world to not just complain about how things are, but use our art and creativity to fight for progress and equity.”

Many injustices

The new collection is called Gamer, where it celebrates the gaming industry and the game changers within our society. As activists, and as I know about the various challenges facing activists every day who want an equitable world, how does Press continue to stay motivated, determined and resilient when every day, there are so many injustices in the world.

“Basically, the metaphor of our collection is that the greatest game is to fight for equity and representation. As an athlete, we are gamers, and there was this journey of going from loving to win the game, to loving to play, and that was the concept of our membership this week, was how do you love to play? I actually asked the community, if the game is really the fight for equity, how do you play that game with an infinite mindset?

“Because that’s the game that you want results, that’s the game where you won’t change, but you actually have to take the same infinite mindset, the same idea of the intent to create change in the world, the intent to be a game-changer with the enjoyment of playing which is the enjoyment of pushing the world.

“That’s why you play the game. You want to leave the world better than it started, but as just the same in sport, you realise that all the value is in the effort that trying is succeeding and the intention to try to make the world a better place and reimagine the status quo and lift voices that are often marginalised and unheard and fight to create something equitable and diverse and beautiful. That’s the success no matter what happens in the battle.”

Sustainability is a massive part of why Christen Press wanted to create Re-inc as a company. Their idea is simple, to continue pushing the boundaries of what needs to be done to sustainably create, source materials ethically, and aim towards zero waste by creating small quantities of clothes. They upcycle and re-purpose unsold garments to make new ones.

Push boundaries

They also ensure that they know their manufacturing location, so things are a little bit more transparent. In Christen’s own words: “we are lucky to have a world-class team who continue to push boundaries and are really innovative”.

Press is now a Manchester United player and, although statistically out of the running for a Champions League slot, one bucket list achievement was ticked off: playing at Old Trafford.

“It was amazing. Because I’m not from England, I don’t think I recognised the magnitude of the moment until I walked into the stadium and walked onto the pitch for the game and I felt the magic and the history and something as an American I went to England to cherish that football history.

“The great goals that had been scored there before me and the celebration of people just being present and enjoying the moment. It had truly amazing energy. I feel very honoured that I was able to play and score there.”

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