Rachael Rapinoe Talks Cannabis, Entrepreneurship And Personal Motivations

By Natalia Kesselman and Javier Hasse. Originally published on Benzinga's El Planteo.

CBD for athletes is in. 

This has been true for a while in the National Hockey League, the National Football League, and even in Major League Baseball. While it took longer for soccer, the CBD ball has finally reached this field.

And who better to hoof it right in there than former pro soccer player Rachael Rapinoe? 

The Californian, currently based in Oregon, has been kicking it hard in the cannabis space with her CBD brand, Mendi.

11 minutes older than her twin Megan (the “pink haired lesbian goddess,” as she describes her), and therefore “more of an OG” Rachael has finally woken soccer’s interest in CBD. Although it is unclear why this sport was one of the few where cannabis and hemp were still not being talked about, that’s precisely what has given Rapinoe a head start.

“We’re excited to own the soccer market here in the United States with Megan, because it's completely untapped,” says the player.

This is what allowed them to “really tell the story of CBD,” both opening the conversation, and making their way gently into the space, without ruffling too many feathers.

Now offering both a no-THC Base line and a full spectrum <0.3% Core line, Mendi is without a doubt the sports focused CBD brand you’ve got to watch out for.

Feel Good, Do Good

“I care about interpersonal growth,” says the entrepreneur, when asked about her passions.

R.R believes that loving oneself (which is not easy and takes time) is the secret to growth: once accomplished, it bleeds into the other areas of life. Only when we are truly at peace with ourselves can we help each other evolve because, in the athlete’s words, “our relationship with the world is a direct reflection of the relationship with yourself.”

“I’m all in on equality,” she added, “I'm all in with social justice. But I think you have to even take a step back from these issues and learn how to love yourself, first. And that's my truth.”

Of course, CBD plays into all of this: “I believe in feeding your body from top to bottom, in the healthiest, most natural way possible.”

As someone who grew up with western medicine and spent her playing days being prescribed every kind of pill there is, Rachael knows first-hand that the aid given to her did not fix any pain, or set her up for long-term health.

“It's not nutritious for your body,” she states.

Rapinoe also points out how how our bodies are actually built to interact with the cannabis plant through the endocannabinoid system, “and not only that, we have natural endocannabinoids produced to feed those receptors but like everything else, we don't produce enough of it.”

That’s basically the role cannabis (CBD, THC and all the other cannabinoids) plays.

“We need the extra minerals and extra vitamins and extra cannabinoids to feed all of these systems; whereas opioids, and Tylenol and Advil, your body doesn't produce that stuff, you don't actually need them .”

Education Is Key To Growth 

Most people who have consumed THC in any manner - especially edibles, have had the unpleasant experience of overdoing it with the dose, at least once. Of course, one of the many perks of weed is that you can’t OD on it, but an excess of THC consumption can render some truly scary moments. Rachael is no stranger to this feeling.

“I've had stories of edibles where I took too much and I thought I was gonna die. Everyone has a story like that, but that is not what defines cannabis. It’s only because I had a lack of education around dosing and I didn't know how much to take.”

Based on her own experiences as well as other people’s, Rachael feels education is key for the cannabis industry to mature. However, it’s extremely difficult to properly educate consumers when the space is still highly restricted. Neither does the medical community get enough funding for controlled studies to be able to “accurately study the effects of THC, CBD as well as the other 100+ cannabinoids,” as the player says.

“We need more studies so we can collate all of the education around cannabis and be able to educate people on which part of the plant -or which plant, hemp or marijuana- works best for them.”

As for the normalization of cannabis in sports, the relation to the previous is a pretty clear equation: science plus education plus legislation equals more and better products. More innovative and more sophisticated products will allow cannabis to reach every space, including sports, where it is much needed.

However, for this to work, we need “all hands on deck,” she says. This means the federal government, the FDA, and the science and medical communities will all have to get onboard to truly make a change. It is the only way to get enough information to protect the public and steer them in the right direction for picking what product is best for them.

“Smoking a blunt is super nostalgic,” she says laughingly. “But I don't see athletes smoking a joint after a game… You don't need to do that, there are other ways to consume cannabis more effectively

“I think that athletes are going to get to a place where they're going to be taking a protein shake during an interview, that's infused with cannabinoids. […] That's where this industry needs to go.”

Leading By Example

“My approach is much different than Megan's. I am not as out and loud and charismatic, I have more of a blue collar mentality. I roll up my sleeves, stay on the quieter side and lead by example,” says the soccer star.

Mendi is not only influential in the CBD space. The company seeks to advocate for gender equality, both in soccer and in general.

For one, the company is almost completely female and LGBT+ led, which is already quite a feat on its own.

But, in addition, its spokeswomen are two of the most respected professional athletes in their respective sports: Megan Rapinoe in soccer, and Sue Bird in basketball.

This is why Mendi’s demographic began slightly skewed female. However it's almost even at this point, says Rachael. “Our brand is gender neutral and our language is gender neutral.

“We just wanted to use the first year to champion equality and properly convey 'this is who we are, this is what we stand for', and we were coming to market intentionally investing in women first. But we're very much on board with supporting male leagues and athletes, especially underserved male leagues.”

‘Fuel To Our Fire’

The wage gap across just about every industry is not news, and neither is gender inequality in sports. Except for maybe tennis, female athletes are wildly underpaid and under invested in. This, of course, really gets these confident women fired up:

“What makes it infuriating is that people want to make the argument that male sports bring in more revenue than female sports, and you cannot make an argument when male sports have a 100 miles starting point. Their start point is so far ahead of the women's game because they've been invested in for years (...) so of course, you're not going to see the same results if you're half-assing your investment”.

When it comes to Mendi, Rachael’s wish is for them to become leaders in the industry: to disperse their product among all sports, all athletes, and all employees. In doing so, the goal is not only to kick off the ball, but pioneer a whole new landscape.

The strategy to actually bring significant social progress is to build a platform so big, employing so many people, that the company can corner the market. “But in the right way”, as R.R. puts it; to do good. “To genuinely create a fair, equitable and diverse culture for all people to succeed.

“We want to continue standing up for issues around equality and equity, in business as well as sports. We really just want to get to a place where there are no boundaries for us, where people can't tell us to ‘shut up and dribble’. (...) Then we’ll have a strong enough foothold to push other leaders in the industry to do better, and to do more. This is the fuel to our fire.”

Photo: Sam Gehrke.

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