Spirit play national anthem early to prevent Rapinoe from kneeling

The Equalizer Staff September 7, 2016 53
Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch played had his team play the national anthem while players were not on the field so that Megan Rapinoe (pictured) could not knee. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch played had his team play the national anthem while players were not on the field so that Megan Rapinoe (pictured) could not knee. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch decided to play the national anthem while players were not on the field ahead of Wednesday’s home match against Seattle Reign FC, saying in a statement that he would not allow Megan Rapinoe to “hijack this tradition.”

Lynch, a veteran, said that while he respects Rapinoe’s individual rights, “we respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause.”

On Sunday, Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem before the Reign’s road match against the Chicago Red Stars. Rapinoe said afterward that her decision was one of solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem during the preseason, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

[MORE: Ellis says Solo’s ban for ‘sum total of actions’ shining poor light on USWNT]

Rapinoe said after Sunday’s game that she decided to kneel for the anthem to continue that conversation which Kaepernick brought light to. She also said that she plans to continue kneeling during the national anthem.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” Rapinoe said. “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.”

In the Spirit’s statement, Lynch said he “has lost personal friends during overseas conflicts and has other close friends who have also lost loved ones. Playing the national anthem prior to sports events became standard during World War II and was a way to express the team’s and fan’s patriotism and show support for the U.S. Military.”

The statement continues: “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.”

[MORE: Pregnant ex-USWNT midfielder Holiday needs brain surgery for tumor]

Earlier in the day, Seattle Reign FC issued a statement saying the club recognizes Rapinoe’s decision offended some and inspired others. Reign FC will respect the personal beliefs of players in pre-match ceremonies.

“We will continue to support Megan in her efforts to make a positive impact on our country, encouraging her to do so in a way that provokes needed conversation about serious issues, in a manner consistent with the values of our organization.”

NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush was at the match at the Maryland SoccerPlex and told reporters that he was not aware of Lynch’s plans to play the national anthem early.

“I would’ve preferred to have had an honest dialogue of what we wanted to do, what their goals were, and then work through it,” Plush said, per the Washington Post’s Steve Goff. “I don’t suggest I have all the answers, but it’s better to talk about it. I’m disappointed.”

  • Chak Khan

    Even it is not a joke it is funny still. But. Seriously.

  • Terry Lash

    Mr. Plush, you may be disappointed in the Washington Spirit management, but I am immensely disappointed in you. Generally, you are invisible to the fans of WoSo and now you criticize the Washington Spirit on this controversial issue? Crazy.

    • SEM

      This just shows how much of an impact or lack of impact he has on the league. First FC Barcelona meets with the MLS commissioner about a women’s team and then this happens. Plush needs to step up his game, clearly the fans aren’t the only ones disappointed in him.

      • Steglitz49

        Barcelona would want their ladies team to play on a decent pitch in a decent stadium. Only MLS can deliver that. No need to waste time on the NWSL commissioner.

        • SEM

          NWSL should still be involved. Like Barcelona said, women draw more people and interest to their games. Plush should at least be a part of the discussion. Fans of the NWSL aren’t that big of a fan of the MLS commissioner.

          • Steglitz49

            At the moment Barcelona has nothing to offer the NWSL Commissioner. They will hardly let their brand be sullied by playing in a stupid place.

            Maybe their deal is to have both an MLS and NWSL team. In that case they would want to clinch the MLS part first and then talk to the NWSL.

  • Katie Curtiss

    I get how the Spirit’s management was disrespectful for their decision but at the same time, if Pinoe has freedom to express herself, the Spirit should be allowed to express themselves in their own way as well.

    • Bruce

      Sure they are “allowed”, but it says everything one needs to know about the small-mindedness of the league when Spirit management decides not to focus on running a business and engages in promoting the personal views of the owner.

      Not professional ownership. Period.

      • Steglitz49

        Are clubs required to play the national anthem at club matches?

        • Bruce

          There’s no requirement, but the tradition of playing the anthem before any sporting event (even high school) runs deep here.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you. It is hard to break with tradition.

          • Bruce

            I don’t think they should stop.

            Spirit management has created a PR problem from themselves and stolen the spotlight from their team.

          • Steglitz49

            I don’t think so. Pinoe has a bigger problem for the game on 9/11. For obvious reasons 9/11 means a lot to Americans and any freedom loving people.

      • Paul Klee

        I was at a MLB (Brewers) game a couple of weeks ago and they played the anthem about 15 minutes before doing the starting lineups, While the teams were in the clubhouse. Isn’t that what Washington did tonight?

        • Bruce

          Not according to the guy calling the shots.

      • Paul Klee

        On the other hand Pinoe called out another team for not doing things the way she liked. Sound familiar?

        • Paul Klee

          In coarser language than Hope used.

      • mockmook

        “small-mindedness of the league when Spirit management decides not to focus on running a business and engages in promoting the personal views of the owner.”

        Sort of like the “small-mindedness” of Pinoe promoting her personal views, right?

        You hypocrites crack me up.

        • Bruce

          Pinoe has made a decision to stand up for something in a way that she knows will alienate some people.

          Lynch has made a decision to stand up for something in a way that he knows will alienate some people.

          One of them should probably focus on running a BUSINESS.

          • mockmook

            Pinoe is part of the business — without the players there is no business — she has the same responsibility to not bring politics into it.

          • Bruce

            That’s just not how things work.

            Pinoe has no responsibility to the Washington Spirit. Her business is to be an employee of the Reign, USWNT and to represent any sponsor who partners with her. If she chooses to do things that put those business relationships in jeopardy, so be it.

            Lynch on the other hand, has a fiduciary responsibility to the club and the league – which he chose to ignore.

          • mockmook

            “Lynch on the other hand, has a fiduciary responsibility to the club and the league – which he chose to ignore.”

            How do you know that or measure it?

            Sorry, Rapinoe is more the face of the league than Lynch — she has more responsibility for its success than he has.

            Regardless, just because he has financial obligations doesn’t mean he can’t take a perfectly reasonable political stand.

          • GT

            So if Pinoe decided to hold up a Trump for President sign during the anthem (stand up for something in a way that she knows will alienate people) you would defend that? Of course not. What if all 22 players decided to air their political views during the anthem in different ways? Ridiculous. There is a time and a place for these discussions. It’s called respect. The fans come to games to see world class women’s soccer, not to hear or see their political views on display. World class athletes like Rapinoe and Kapernic (sp?) have the luxury the rest of us average citizens don’t have; they can go on one of the sports talk shows (their are a million of them)or possibly even a political show (I’ve seen athletes on them) and freely and openly express their views.I believe people of all political persuations should condemn Rapinoe’s behavior.

          • Bruce

            She’s opened herself up to opinions, condemnations and career ramifications. That was her decision.

            I’ve not said here whether I support Pinoe’s cause, how she’s going about it or even like her. I will say that I respect her decision to stand up (or kneel) to use her weight to shed light on what she considers an important issue in *a respectful way* since she was not infringing on anyone else’s right to observe the anthem in a traditional way.

            I would also respect it if her employer or business partner tried to redirect her energies (or even end a relationship) if they were a detriment to the team or club business. Those are the ramifications of taking a stand.

          • GT

            I also respect people who stand up for what they believe in and recognize that is sometimes difficult to do. I have heard Rapinoe speak many times, in many forums, on many different topics. IMO she is a very intelligent, thoughtful person and I often agree with her positions. But with freedom of speech comes the responsibility to know when and how to express your views and have an impact. I am disappointed in her in deciding how and when she did it. When you unilaterally decide without consulting other stakeholders, you disrespect them and makes it look like you want to be a martyr and a champion. That’s not the way I conduct my life and it is not the way I was brought up. Therefore I don’t like it.

  • newsouth

    nm

  • Paul Klee

    Washington Post’s Steven Goff tweets Megan Rapinoe’s post match thoughts.

    • Paul Klee

      Rapinoe’s next match is in Seattle on 9/11 will she show any self awareness and not protest on this particular day?

      • Bruce

        Like what she is protesting has anything to do with 9/11?

        • Steglitz49

          What is she protesting about? Does she know herself?

          • Bruce

            She’s pretty clear in her comments.

          • Steglitz49

            Her home match on 9/11 will give us the answer.

        • Paul Klee

          So she condemned the Spirit for using the word Hijack( which IMO she is trying to do) she herself relates it to 9/11 by calling the Spirit’s actions distasteful Now plays her next match on 9/11, does she realize is she it might be seen as distasteful by many if she protests on that day?

          • Bruce

            No one wins by linking anything going on here with 9/11. She’s opened up a can of worms by heading down that path first.

          • Paul Klee

            Yup, I think she is living in an echo chamber.

          • Steglitz49

            It has certainly given people something else to discuss than the USWNT abysmal failure at the Olympics.

          • guest

            only someone as self-absorped as megan rapinoe would link 9/11 to her kneel down protest. always the victim.

      • mskillens

        No idea but I’m going to start watching these games now……….

  • Steglitz49

    Is it a requirement to play the National Anthem before club games? Could the y play “America the beautiful” instead?

    • SEM

      It’s not a requirement, its a long standing tradition. America the beautiful, while a great song, doesn’t resonate as much with Americans or its military as much as the national anthem.

      • Steglitz49

        Of course not but soccer does not resonate with Americans …

        • SEM

          Sure it does. It doesn’t have the same impact that Football, baseball and basketball does but people are starting to watch. Not only that but soccer is huge at the youth level and college level.

          • Steglitz49

            Of course it is but it is not THE game as it is in almost the whole of the rest of the world except a few places, like where cricket is the big game.

      • Chak Khan

        Yup, military…don’t you dare disappoint it.

    • Chak Khan

      Always, wonder why “America The Beautiful” is not chosen as the national anthem. Instead we want the one with this stanza “No refuge could save the hireling and slave
      From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,”

      • Steglitz49

        The Brits sign about keeping their queen safe. The Swedes do not even mention their own country. The nearest they get is “the North”.

        • Gary Diver

          England does not have a national anthem per se and they used different anthems for different events.

          “At international soccer matches, England uses “God Save the Queen” as the national anthem. Whilst at the beginning of the FA Cup Final “Abide With Me” is also played prior to the match.

          At the Commonwealth Games, Team England has used “Jerusalem” as the victory anthem since 2010. The Commonwealth Games Council for England conducted a poll of members of the public which decided the anthem for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The three options were “God Save the Queen”, “Jerusalem” and “Land of Hope and Glory”. “Jerusalem” was the clear winner with 52% of the vote; “Land of Hope and Glory” received 32% and “God Save the Queen” 12%” – Wikipedia

          • Steglitz49

            “And did those feet in ancient times …”

            “Jerusalem” is the song of the Women’s Institute, much lampooned by Monty Python.

            It is a typical vote by the anarchic Brits, that would never happen in the US of A nor even Canada.

          • Gary Diver

            William Blake’s poem did inspire the title for “Chariots of Fire”, the famous 1981 British film about Olympics athletics and moral struggle.

          • mockmook

            Never heard (or never paid attention) to “Jerusalem”. What a beautiful song.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW1XV-2OPkI

            Not sure which is better 🙂

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a33elvB2l4M

  • mockmook

    C’mon EQ, where is the praise for Lynch’s bravery in speaking out?

  • Kar

    I don’t understand why people who are such proponents of freedom of speech react so angrily when people who disagree voice their opinions? It goes both ways. That being said, whether it was Rapinoe’s intention or not, and I am a fan of hers, this has changed from her original intent, doesn’t matter if I agree/disagree, to the focus solely being her. The league is trying to grow, trying to expand, and now that it is playoff time… the focus is her… not the game itself. The league and players have been working so hard to build a fan base to build a following to allow the league to grow and flourish, to have that effort diminished by this cannot sit well with players, owners, and fans alike. I find it interesting there has been to date, no public support from her USWNT teammates. Was the owner of the Spirit “small minded”? Last time I checked, the owner of the firm I work for makes the rules, it’s not a free for all. If I don’t like it, there’s the door by my choice. It’s called the real world. I love the game of soccer, can we agree to disagree and move on. I am already cringing about the upcoming USWNT friendly’s. The media will make it more about this, than the game. Finally, I support the anthem, I support the flag, but… I also support your right to disagree. Can we just move on now…

  • donjerue

    Like it really changed her Mind? It just fed the flames, gave it even more legs, and showed what a clueless idiot the owner is. I’m sure he stands up every time he hears Oh Canada.