XI WoSo Moments of 2016: Megan Rapinoe takes a knee

John D Halloran December 31, 2016 39
Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the National Anthem of Reign's September 4 match in Chicago. (photo courtesy @gbpackfan32

Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the National Anthem of Reign’s September 4 match in Chicago.

When the Seattle Reign traveled to Chicago in early September to take on the Red Stars, no one would have expected the main story to be one that occurred before the contest even kicked off. After all, both squads entered the match in the thick of the NWSL playoff hunt, separated by only three points with four games left to play in the regular season.

However, the events that occurred that Sunday night at Toyota Park ended up shaping a national debate over the coming weeks and months.

Still not 100% fit after the Olympics, Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe didn’t start the game in Chicago, but still managed to make quite the statement, kneeling on the sideline near Seattle’s bench during the national anthem.

After the contest, Rapinoe told American Soccer Now that her protest was done to support San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had begun kneeling prior to NFL games just a few weeks earlier—an act Kaepernick said he performed to protest racial injustice in the wake of a series of African-American deaths at the hands of police officers.

“It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now,” said Rapinoe. “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…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.”

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Rapinoe’s actions that night set off a wave of debate that only grew in intensity midweek when Seattle traveled to Washington. Prior to that match, Spirit owner Bill Lynch, a veteran of the United States Air Force, opted to play the national anthem while both teams were still in the locker room in order to prevent Rapinoe from kneeling again.

The team also immediately released a statement which described Rapinoe’s protest as an act of “disrespect” and an attempt to “hijack” the event, a comment that some dubbed in poor taste considering the proximity of the game to the 9/11 anniversary only four days away. Rapinoe herself didn’t hold back after the match, calling the Spirit’s decision “f***ing unbelievable” and accusing Lynch of homophobia.

That weekend, on September 11, the Reign played at home and, this time, Rapinoe chose to stand for the national anthem, locked arm-in-arm with her teammates prior to a match that also honored several Navy veterans in attendance.

However, Rapinoe standing on September 11 didn’t end the saga. Four days later, she would kneel again, this time in a United States women’s national team jersey prior to a friendly against Thailand played in Columbus, Ohio.

That action led U.S. Soccer to release their thoughts on the matter, saying, “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.”

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Head coach Jill Ellis also added her reservations about the protest, worried that Rapinoe’s individual action overshadowed the focus on the team.

However, despite the statements from the federation and Ellis, Rapinoe again elected to kneel four days later in Atlanta when the U.S. played the Netherlands.

From there, the controversy largely fizzled out. While Rapinoe did kneel again for Seattle’s final club game in Houston a week later, she wouldn’t come to represent the U.S. again in 2016. In October, Ellis chose not to include the winger for a series of friendlies against Switzerland; in November, Rapinoe received a call-up, but didn’t dress for either of two California friendlies against Romania—admitting before the first contest that she still wasn’t fully fit.

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During the November camp, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati added his thoughts to the matter, telling FourFourTwo during a roundtable discussion, “There is a right to freedom of speech. She also has the obligations to putting on a national team uniform. And we think those are pretty strong when you’re representing the U.S. national team and wearing the crest.”

Where the controversy goes next is anyone’s guess. Throughout her career, Rapinoe has shown a willingness to speak out on controversial issues and her anthem protest this year was certainly no different, especially in the face of considerable pressure from both the public and U.S. Soccer. The only for certain is that when Rapinoe lines up for her first match in 2017, all eyes will be on her during the Star Spangled Banner.

  • Steglitz49

    Maybe declaring herself unfit for OG-16 might have cut more ice?

    By their fruit ye shall know them.

    • guest

      megan rapinoe declares herself still unfit from her knee injury for the friendlies in november but yet four months earlier she declared herself fit for the rio olympics and it turned out she was only 15 minutes fit after all. her fitness was determined by the size of the olympic bonus not her health. uswnt corruption at it’s finest.

      • Steglitz49

        By their fruit the US knew their own. High time to cashier them.

  • Steglitz49

    From the other side of the Pond news of a more uplifting nature, to wit that Kayleigh Green will spend the first half of 2017 with Italy’s Chieti in the ladies’ Serie A.

    • Rdalford

      more other side of the Pond woso news, from FA site

      “England duo Alex Scott and Karen Carney are among football’s representatives on the 2017 New Year’s Honours list.
      The Lionesses pair have both been awarded MBEs for services to football, as has referee Sian Massey-Ellis.

      Scott and Carney have both earned over 100 international caps and helped England win bronze at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
      They are the latest in a long line of Lionesses to be named on the Honours list, alongside Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey, Casey Stoney, Faye White, Fara Williams and Steph Houghton.

      Massey-Ellis is an assistant referee in the Premier League and English Football League and has taken charge of a number of FA WSL matches.
      She has also officiated in the UEFA Women’s European Championship and Champions League finals.”

  • Steglitz49

    The 4th run of the biennial South Asian Championship is being played in India and the hosts are amongst the semi-finalists. Well done India!

    Nepal kicked off on Boxing Day with an 8-0 thrashng of Bhutan at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri. Sabitra Bhandari got a double hat-trick.

    The Maldives beat Sri Lanka 5-2 in the second match of the Group A double-header; Fadhuwa Zahir got a treble.

    Nepal 2 days later beat the Maldives 9-0. Bhandari was prolific again with a 5-goal haul. Sri Lanka won 2-0 over Bhutan and when they faced Nepal, they held them until 3 min from time when they conceded a decisive own-goal. A 3-1 for the Maldives over Bhutan then saw the Maldives through to the SFs.

    With Pakistan pulling out of Group B, both India, the hosts, and Bangladesh got to their SFs by beating Afghanistan. India were 5-1 winners, before Bangladesh got 6, with 5 of those by Sabina Khatun. The group decider saw three-times winners India held to a goalless draw by Bangladesh, who therefore finished top on goal-difference.

    In the SFs onJanuary 2nd, India play Nepal and Bangladesh the Maldives. The final is 2 days later.

  • guest

    I have no problem at all with Rapinoe taking a knee at any game – club or USWNT. She has a right to do so. What I do have a problem with is her taking an Olympics spot as an unfit player. Of course that is also on Ellis/USsoccer.

    • guest

      and it is her horrible OG performance that is what she will be remembered by. I almost think she did the kneeling thing on purpose to make people think about something other than the corruption that put her onto that 18 person roster. and the fact that she still wasn’t fit enough to dress for the last friendlies.

      • Steglitz49

        Do you bother to read earlier comments?

        Please do us the courtesy of registering yourself so we can enjoy following your comments.

        • ABCDE

          wow that is rich coming from you.

          • Steglitz49

            Do you agree with “guest’s” comment? Yes or no?. Please confirm.

            I am registered. I don’t know if you are seeing that your letters are in grey, not red.

          • Hadchi

            You are a registered troll.

            The one comment above from Som Termanni has more substance than all your hundred thousand comments all together.

            There is no value in following your comments. Nobody is benefitting from you being registered.

            Stop telling people what they have to do and stop critizing people when they post something which has been posted in a similar way already or when they are not repeating within hours.

            This is not your forum.

          • Steglitz49

            And a Happy New Year to you too.

            Someone did wake up on the wrong side of the bed if not blanket this morning.

            Remember: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

            Btw — where are you when snide and derogatory remarks are made against young ladies who play soccer? I have not seen you leaping to their defense. There is always this year.

    • guest

      she has a choice to take a knee, not a constitutional right. megan rapinoe does not have a constitutional right to protest on private property without the consent of the owner first. the uswnt and nwsl have already said publicly that they have not given her their consent and it is a violation of conduct rules. however, megan rapinoe does have a constitutional right to protest on public property whenever she wants. free speech rights are not unlimited.

  • guest

    the picture that saved the southside of chicago.

    • guest

      what??? the murders in chicago have continued on at record pace.

      • mockmook

        Please look up sarcasm in the pictionary…

  • Som Termanni

    My top NWSL stories of 2016 that woso media whiffed on covering:

    – The NWSL’s refusal to pay non-collegiate amateurs, effectively making 2016 another semi-pro season. Woso-focused publications declined to cover the effect of the league’s ongoing amateur non-payment rules, largely leaving the subject to an excellent in-depth feature by the Kansas City Star. The closest the woso media cabal got to covering its effects on amateurs was by accidentally giving it space whenever someone put a mic in front of Merrit Paulson, who loved egging the league on over it, for more than a few minutes at a time.

    – Amandine Henry’s loan to PSG. I’ve railed on this in the last week, but the double standard is baffling: when Henry enters the league, it’s an indication that “the NWSL is growing into the world’s best league” (Fox) and is celebrated across outlets. When Henry passes a physical pending a loan to PSG, just days after Alex Morgan signs with Lyon, it’s banner news across multiple French publications, but not a single English-language outlet mentions it at all save for a handful of re-tweets of other people translating the news for them. NWSL fans can’t have it both ways: it’s both an honor to the league that PSG is willing to sign her off groin surgery for mercenary work to keep their D1F lead, and for her to push hard for returning to the NWSL in time for the league opener. French media recognize it as a coup signing nearly on par with Morgan to Lyon, and English media are barely willing to acknowledge that it happened at all.

    – Boston having a regional broadcast deal with NESN blocked by the league’s deal with Fox Sports, even though Fox Sports didn’t broadcast a single Breakers game. Only Stephanie Yang covered it, and then only for the Bent Musket. The only other outlet that even a mentioned an NESN deal for game broadcasts was Vice. (Everyone else happily picked up on the NESN documentary because there was a press release for it.) Considering the hay made of how poor the league’s deal with FS1 was, the relative silence on teams striking their own regional deals–and especially seeing those deals torpedoed by the league’s awful agreement, and especially for teams that are all but guaranteed to not benefit from the league’s agreement–is bizarre. See also Boston’s ad-hoc deal with Bud Light, which was picked up by the Breakers and didn’t involve USSF or SUM, both of which had existing deals with Bud Light but didn’t leverage their interest in the league until after Boston did it on their own.

    – Sunil Gulati openly saying that NWSL attendance is too poor to justify increasing player wages, a club bombshell in a year of national team wage disputes revolving around Gulati. We only know he said this because a small local news outlet in Florida reported everything he said as the speaker at an unrelated event. Nobody in the woso media circles has gotten Gulati to so much as cough out a “no comment” about the factors holding back NWSL wages, if anyone’s even bothered to ask. By blaming fans when he thought nobody was around, Gulati also implicitly excuses Jeff Plush’s incompetence at securing sponsorships, monetizing the on-field product via streaming or TV deals, or marketing the league–despite those playing much larger factors in whether a single-entity league like the NWSL can pay its players enough.

    – Everything going on in Washington’s front office. There are so many openly disgruntled staff and players at (or formerly at) the Spirit that it should not be a mystery why the team has imploded so dramatically since reaching the finals. The Rapinoe anthem incident surfaced much of the dysfunction, but with nearly every 2016 allocated player now off or rumored to be seeking an out from the team, reams of speculation, and taunts from woso reporters about how much they know but won’t report, nothing’s been made of why.

    • Steglitz49

      Thanks for this research and background. Great stuff. Keep u your sterling work.

    • mockmook

      “why the team has imploded so dramatically since reaching the finals”

      Shouldn’t we wait until they play a few games before we decide that the team has imploded?

      Krieger is “so important” to Washington that she took off a playoff game (which they won).

      Of course, the loss of Dunn would be a big blow (IF IT HAPPENS). But, then, why don’t you say that Orlando is also imploding?

      Anyway, this could be a lineup for the team this year — my latest projection has them taking Damaska, Alvarado, and Miranda in the draft — still looks like a pretty good team to me, even if Dunn leaves:


      • guest

        that is a good point about orlando. seems like a certain group of people are trying to create a narrative about washington that the facts don’t bear out.

      • Steglitz49

        Fascinating. Your points are well taken.

        But, please just call Kristie Mewis by her name, Mewis. The double “ii” ending is wearing a bit thin. It is not like she is a ffrench-Jones. Also, I am not sure that “ii” is the correct plural. It could be “ids”.

      • guest

        my understanding was that the Canadians (matheson/zadorsky/labbe) are all looking to leave. labbe was allegedly looking for a euro team

        • Steglitz49

          Stephanie Labbé has already played 5 or 6 years in Sweden — first for Piteå (2009-11) and then for Örebro (2012-14).

          Steph was Örebro’s goalie when they came second in Damallsvenskan, whereby they qualified for the Champions League but she had left by the time they played in the Champions League. Other Canadians in Örebro have been Marie-Eve Nault and Melissa Tancredi.

        • mockmook

          If true, it just goes to show how Rapinoe’s “tantrum” has poisoned the NWSL well.

          The Lesson: Don’t mix (bonehead) politics and sports — nothing good comes of it.

          • guest

            or deal with things better than Spirit management did. or don’t be a bigot like Spirit management allegedly is.

          • Steglitz49

            The situation involved a player who went unfit to the Olympics. Her unfitness may well have cost the US a medal, maybe even the gold and the chance to do a unique double.

            Please feel free to explain how you would handle such a person “better”, to use your own words.

          • mockmook

            Let’s say you worked at Planned Parenthood.

            You announce via a press release that every day you will kneel for a few minutes in their lobby (in front of the public and the customers/vendors of PP) to protest the number of babies killed by abortion. And, you will be doing this while you are being paid to be working for PP, i.e., you’re on the clock.

            1) Would they stop you?
            2) Should they stop you?
            3) Are they bigots if they stop you?

          • guest

            As usual, your argument makes no sense

          • mockmook

            The situation is completely analogous (only the hot button issue is different).

            And, of course, you refuse to address the questions.

          • guest

            You take a job at planned parenthood because you want to help women. Many of whom cannot take care of children and become pregnant due to varying circumstances. Planned parenthood does far more than abortions, but as a right wingnut male you would never understand that . Planned parenthood could of course stop people who act contrary to what they believe to be their mission, which isn’t “killing babies” but presumably they could attempt to put an end to disruptive behavior. The Spirit management likewise can do what they want, but people and their employees (like Krieger) can have an opinion about it and act accordingly.

          • mockmook

            So, the Spirit management did what they thought was proper — so no one should have any complaints.

          • Guest

            Uh no. The players did have complaints, and as such they are leaving. Byebye Spirit.

          • guest

            or nwsl players like rapinoe following the nwsl conduct rules.

          • Steglitz49

            Remember the Miracle on Ice?

            By all means forget the Miracle on Grass, if you can’t cope with life in all its fulness.

          • Guest

            or don’t be a homophobe manager in a womens soccer league. Labbe is gay and publicly looking to leave.

          • mockmook

            It could be worse, he could be a homophone manager…

    • mockmook

      BTW, as you were saying late last year, it sure looks like Banini is gone. Perhaps she could play about a half of a year (mid NWSL season) if she didn’t want any time off from her Valencia adventures, but I doubt if she or the Spirit wants that.

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