Megan Rapinoe knelt during the United States national anthem prior to the U.S. women’s national team’s game against Thailand on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.
Her decision to kneel is a continuation of her protest, which she started on Sept. 4 in the Chicago suburbs. She knelt there to stand in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during NFL preseason matches in protest of racially-charged police-related brutality.
“I just went with what was in my heart and I think what I knew all along,” Rapinoe said after Thursday’s game.
Rapinoe planned to continue to kneel last week on the road in Maryland, but Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch denied her that opportunity by playing the U.S. national anthem with players still in the locker rooms. On Sunday, at home in Seattle on Sept. 11 – the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – Rapinoe stood with her arms locked with Seattle Reign FC teammates.
But Thursday marked the first time that Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem while wearing a USA jersey. None of her teammates joined her.
Rapinoe started the match on the bench. She came on to start the second half.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis made it clear prior to the match that she expected Rapinoe to stand for the anthem, and U.S. Soccer officials spoke with Rapinoe about her plans.
“I totally understand where Megan is, in terms of her willingness to talk about hard social issues,” Ellis said, via espnW. “I respect that. I support that. Those conversations should be had. Me personally, in this environment for a national team, I don’t disassociate playing for your country. I think that’s a part of a national symbol. So in terms of standing for a national anthem, I think that’s an expectation of a national team player.”
U.S. Soccer released a statement following the match which echoed those thoughts:
“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.”
Rapinoe continues to protest in solidarity with Kaepernick and, since, several other NFL players as they look to bring awareness to racial issues. Rapinoe added when she first knelt that, “being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.”
On Wednesday, police fatally shot a 13-year-old boy in Columbus – where the U.S. played Thursday – after the boy “pulled a gun from his waistband.” The weapon recovered from the scene was a BB gun. The boy, Tyre King, was black.