U.S. Soccer scorns player who knelt

Protest | Rapinoe’s protest in international game was an unwelcome gesture
by Jae Wasson
Posted 9/16/16, 04:39 pm

The U.S. Soccer Federation publicly denounced the actions of star player Megan Rapinoe on Thursday after she knelt during the national anthem before an international friendly game against Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.

Rapinoe, a lesbian, is the first athlete representing the United States on the world stage to join the protest about national social issues started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Her actions sparked an immediate backlash as U.S. Soccer, news organizations, and social media suggested she had disrespected the flag.

“Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach,” a statement issued by U.S. Soccer’s governing body read. “In front of national and often global audiences … we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played."

Rapinoe expressed frustration after the game Thursday that attention was on the mode of her protest, kneeling during the anthem, not the reasons she was protesting, to advocate for LGBT people and African-Americans. She first knelt two weeks ago before a game with her national women’s team, the Seattle Reign. The next time she took the field in the league against the Washington Spirit, the team preempted the protest by playing the national anthem before the players came out of the locker rooms.

“We respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal—albeit worthy—cause,” the team explained.

“Unbelievable,” Rapinoe responded. She did not intend to “hijack” the game, she said.

The veteran player acknowledged that the game against Thailand was different. For one thing, she would be before an audience of potentially millions, many of them from different countries. For another, there would be two anthems played. If she stood for the Thai anthem and knelt for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it would look like she respected Thailand more than her own country. She said she had talked to her teammates about her decision before they took the field. They were not ready to kneel as well, but understood her actions.

When Rapinoe dropped to one knee, the crowd showed little to no reaction and her teammates stayed close to her side. But after the game, the fireworks began. Even those who supported her cause asked her to keep her protest within the United States and not shame her country on the international stage.

“It’s about the team,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said, “and if something supersedes the team, that is where I get concerned.” Ellis, also a lesbian, made it clear she expects her players to stand during the anthem as part of representing their country.

Not many meaningful conversations have come out of her protest, Rapinoe admitted to the media. Most people want to talk about what she is doing more than why. She said she is trying to find a better way of making her point.

It is not yet clear whether U.S. Soccer has planned to punish Rapinoe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jae Wasson

Jae is a Zenger House fellow

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  • Lizards88
    Posted: Sat, 09/17/2016 09:40 am

    She can go ahead and live in another country, good luck, dont let the door hit you on your way out.

  • Ben Cuthbertson
    Posted: Fri, 09/23/2016 10:52 am

    We are free in THIS country to express disagreement with injustice unlike in others. Responses of this sort indicate a shallow thought process bent on silencing the protest by pointing at the method.

  • Katie
    Posted: Sat, 09/17/2016 10:16 am

    And how does she think lesbians are treated in Thailand? I think she might've kneeled during the wrong anthem.

  • JDC
    Posted: Sat, 09/17/2016 11:45 am

    It's about respecting our country, not about making a statement for the perverted. I agree Lizards88 - good riddance!

  • Laneygirl's picture
    Posted: Sat, 09/17/2016 01:21 pm

     Scorn. Good word. Can this lesbian athlete explain where in the United States in 2016 she's been meeting with injustice for her lifestyle?

  • SKK
    Posted: Sat, 09/17/2016 08:35 pm

    She's kneeling behalf of LGBT people? Seems like they are getting pretty much what they want these days. Maybe some athletes should kneel on behalf of the florists, bakers, and photographers who are being persecuted. 

  • Greg Mangrum's picture
    Greg Mangrum
    Posted: Sat, 09/17/2016 09:02 pm

    SKK- Excellent post!

  • zerubbable
    Posted: Sun, 09/18/2016 02:55 am

    I've been looking all over for factual scientifc evedence for the "gay" gene.  Has anybody found this evidence?  Why is the church and it's leadership, so silent about this simple missing fact in this cultural debate?


  • socialworker
    Posted: Mon, 09/19/2016 12:19 pm

    Because (I think) you really can't even have a cultural debate about it.  There is no debating with people who value their victimization more than facts.