Megan Rapinoe’s protest of the national anthem took on a much more serious tone Thursday night when the soccer star took a knee during its playing before the U.S. Women’s National Team friendly with Thailand.
Demonstrating in that fashion while representing her country, it was believed, would be met with harsher scrutiny than when Rapinoe knelt during the anthem before a game for her club team, the Seattle Reign, a couple weeks ago. The U.S. Soccer Federation, as expected, reacted quickly in admonishing Rapinoe’s actions.
“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.”
That stands in stark contrast to the National Football League’s position, which says players are encouraged — but not required — to stand during the anthem. It’s a position that has drawn fire from some corners as being unpatriotic.
For her part, Rapinoe has at least come forward with some grounds for her continued protest. After her first demonstration earlier this month, she told ESPN that, being gay, she can relate to the types of injustices Colin Kaepernick is speaking against. And her aim is to spark a meaningful debate around those issues.
“I am disgusted with the way he has been treated and the fans and hatred he has received in all of this. It is overtly racist: ‘Stay in your place, black man.’ Just didn’t feel right to me. We need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color are treated. We are not saying we are not one the greatest countries in world. Just need to accept that [it is] not perfect, things are broken. And 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.”
It remains to be seen if Rapinoe’s stance this time out will end up being counterproductive, and the Federation backs up its terse words with a suspension.
It certainly seems to be leaning that way.