Megan Rapinoe knelt Thursday night during the national anthem, her first time doing so in a U.S. Women’s National Team uniform, and U.S. Soccer was quick to make its frustration known. She first knelt during the anthem earlier this month, expressing her support for Colin Kaepernick before an NWSL game between her Seattle Reign and the Chicago Red Stars. Tonight, Rapinoe took a knee before the national team’s 9-0 exhibition win over Thailand.
During the game, U.S. Soccer issued a statement against Rapinoe’s protest, saying the national anthem is a time to “reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country.” A curious use of the word “all,” considering that Rapinoe has said that kneeling during the anthem is a way of showing solidarity with Kaepernick as well as bringing attention to her feeling that the flag does not protect the liberties of all.
As she told ESPNw: “Quite honestly, being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected, so I can absolutely sympathize with that feeling.”
The U.S. Soccer statement reads in full:
Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer. In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our Men’s and Women’s National Team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country. As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the National Anthem is played.
It will be interesting to see if U.S. Soccer makes any move towards following their myopic words with action, especially when doing so would mean going against one of its bigger stars in Rapinoe. And in the meantime, it’s something of another point in the argument that Kaepernick, who started this movement, has already won.