The Washington Spirit pro women's soccer team prevented Megan Rapinoe from kneeling during the National Anthem by playing the song prior to the teams lining up on Wednesday. The Spirit's owner accused Rapinoe of trying to "hijack" the anthem. She called the owner's decision "expletive unbelievable."
Bill Lynch, an Air Force veteran and owner of the Spirit in the National Women's Soccer League, ordered the anthem to be played while the players from the Spirit and Rapinoe's Seattle Reign were in the locker room. On Sunday, Rapinoe knelt as the anthem was played at a game in Chicago to support Colin Kaepernick and she planned on doing something similar on Wednesday.
"In light of ... Rapinoe's public declaration that she intended to 'take a knee' during the United States National Anthem tonight, we decided to play the anthem in our stadium ahead of schedule rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent," the spirit said in a statement.
"To willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans for any cause would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves. Professional athletes have incredible numbers of followers, to which we believe they have the ability to articulate a conversation with objectives and plans and begin a serious conversation directly, or through traditional media appearances, without insulting our military and fans. ...
"The tradition of honoring our military and our patriotism before our games is very important to us," the statement said. "We strongly feel that there are better ways to begin a conversation about a cause than tarnishing a tradition that is so important to so many."
Rapinoe slammed Lynch in a post-match interview with the Washington Post:
"It's [expletive] unbelievable. Saddened by it. It's pretty clear what the message is I am trying to bring to light in Chicago and what I continue to try to talk about the last few days. Clearly with [Spirit owner Bill Lynch's] actions, it's a necessary conversation. It was incredibly distasteful, four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say that I tried to hijack this event. ... It's just really disappointing and disrespectful. We want to talk about disrespect, and me disrespecting, he didn't even give both teams a chance to even stand in front of it and show their respects. It's unbelievable. It's truly an unbelievable act to me."
Rapinoe, who is openly gay, is right. Lynch is the one who hijacked the anthem and prevented the players from showing their respect or to protest as is their right.