After a U.S. women's soccer player knelt during the national anthem as a form of protest, U.S. Soccer released a statement with some harsh words for her and for anyone else who chooses to follow in her footsteps.
Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem before a Sept. 15 exhibition game against Thailand to protest what she believes to be social inequity and oppression in the United States, ESPN reports. Her gestures are a form of solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had consistently made headlines these past few weeks after his decision to protest the national anthem.
His protest has created a national movement, with professional and high school athletes across the country following in his footsteps, according to The Associated Press. Rapinoe is only one of many Kaepernick supporters, but her actions drew extra media attention when U.S. Soccer released a statement condemning her protest, notes ESPN.
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 has no plans of backing down any time soon, and has said that she plans to continue kneeling during the anthem of every game.
"As of now I plan to keep kneeling," she told ESPN. "I'm trying to kind of formulate a better plan and an action step moving forward. But until then, this is how I can help, this is how I can use my voice going forward, and this is how I can be an ally in this space."
Like Kaepernick, Rapinoe believes that the protest is bigger than sports and that she can use her position as an athlete to shed light on what she believes to be an important issue.
"We need to look at all the things the flag and the anthem represent and all the things it means, and is it protecting everybody?" Rapinoe said. "There are people who don't feel as protected as I do every day. I know it's a time-honored tradition. Especially in a sports environment, it's something the country is very passionate about, but there is a bigger conversation here that is more important than sports."