U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe knelt during the playing of the National Anthem on Sunday, prior to a National Women's Soccer League match between the Chicago Red Stars and the Seattle Reign at Toyota Park in suburban Chicago.
"It was very intentional," Rapinoe, a Seattle player, told American Soccer Now. "It was a little nod to [Colin] Kaepernick and everything that he's standing for right now. I think it's actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn't. We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.
"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It's important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don't need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that's really powerful."
Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, created a media firestorm when he sat during the National Anthem during a game 10 days ago as a protest to how black Americans and people of color are treated in America, especially by law enforcement. On Thursday in a game at San Diego, Kaepernick knelt during the anthem and was joined by teammate Eric Reid. Seattle Seahawks player Jeremy Lane sat during the anthem on Thursday during his team's final preseason game, saying he supported Kaepernick.
Rapinoe is the first white athlete to support Kaepernick by using the National Anthem to make a gesture. She said she has never met the quarterback. Former U.S. National Team member Julie Foudy sent a series of tweets relaying what Rapinoe told her:
Rapinoe to me on taking a knee for anthem: I'm disgusted w way Colin has been treated & the fans & hatred he has received in all of this.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe: It is overtly racist. Stay in ur place black man. Just didn’t feel right to me. And quite honestly being gay, I have stood with...— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe: my hand over my heart during the national anthem & felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected, so I can absolutely sympathize..— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe: with that feeling. The very least that I can do is continue the conversation with him by kneeling for the anthem.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe: it needs to be everyone confronting problems in our country, not just people of color.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe: One player asked why I did it. I said for Colin Kaepernick. She said "Good for you." Otherwise no reaction from team.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe: I intend to do it for games going forward.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) September 5, 2016
As the photo above shows, posted on Twitter by NWSL fan gbpackfan32, there were few fans at Rapinoe's game. Neither USA Today nor Getty Images, two of the largest sports photo agencies, had a photographer on hand, so her gesture will not get the same amount of attention as Kaepernick's.
I applaud her for her stance. I always wondered why we play the National Anthem at domestic sporting events. It seems like a cheap form of patriotism and we never demand it be played before plays, movies, concerts or other forms of entertainment. Yet it is institutionalized in sports, so protest is a valid vehicle of free expression.
I am glad that Rapinoe referenced her being gay, since her sentiment is one I have shared as a citizen and taxpayer, resentful that my full rights have not been recognized by the country where I was born.