United States women’s national soccer star Megan Rapinoe made headlines Sunday when she took a knee during the national anthem in support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick before the National Women's Soccer League's Seattle Reign faced the Chicago Red Stars.
The Reign played the Washington Spirit on Wednesday at Maureen Hendricks Field, and the Spirit elected to play the anthem earlier than usual to prevent her from kneeling again. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated shared the statement from ownership, which supported Rapinoe's right to express herself but felt the method of protest was disrespectful:
When asked about the decision to play the anthem early, Rapinoe said, "It's f--king unbelievable. Saddened by it," per Steven Goff of the Washington Post (NSFW language).
Good Morning America passed along an image of Rapinoe taking a knee before Sunday’s game:
The Seattle midfielder explained to espnW’s Julie Foudy the backlash Kaepernick received when he sat and knelt during the anthem was part of her motivation: “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.”
She also said she is gay, which helped her sympathize with his feelings that his liberties aren’t always protected in the United States.
Kaepernick has sat or knelt during the national anthem throughout the preseason to protest the way people of color are treated in the United States.
He discussed the rationale behind his decision, per NFL Media's Steve Wyche: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick was met with both support and criticism from inside and outside the world of sports.
President Barack Obama discussed the quarterback’s decision at the G20 economic summit in China and noted it has generated conversation about an important topic. The Associated Press shared some of his comments on its YouTube page:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talked about Kaepernick on Wednesday, per the AP's Barry Wilner. Goodell said he doesn’t agree with the quarterback’s actions and pointed to the NFL’s belief in patriotism as a primary reason, but he acknowledged he supports players who want change in society.
Although Kaepernick lost his starting job with the 49ers to Blaine Gabbert, his jersey has become the NFL’s top seller since his act of protest, per Ahiza Garcia of CNN Money. The 49ers start their season Monday night at Levi's Stadium against the Los Angeles Rams.
As for Rapinoe, her Reign play the Spirit once again in their next game Sunday. However, that contest is in Seattle, and the team already announced it supports her decision to protest in a statement, via Sports Illustrated.
Given that support, expect the national anthem to be played at its customary time at Memorial Stadium.