Soccer player Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem Sunday night in Atlanta prior to the U.S. Women’s National Team’s game against the Netherlands. It was the second time in less than a week that Rapinoe chose not to stand for the anthem prior to representing her country for a national team match.
Rapinoe previously took a knee during the national anthem while playing for her club team, the Seattle Reign. However, Fox Sports notes that Rapinoe chose to stand side by side with her teammates prior to Seattle’s game on September 11. After Rapinoe chose to stand for the September 11 game, there was a great deal of intrigue regarding whether or not Rapinoe would stand or kneel while wearing the National Team jersey.
Those questions were answered last Thursday when Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem before the U.S. Women played a friendly match against Thailand. Rapinoe did not start that game but appeared as a substitute in the second half. Almost immediately after the game, U.S. Soccer issued a statement in response to Rapinoe electing to kneel for the anthem.
“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 the flag while the national anthem is played.”
However, outside of that statement, there appeared to be no action levied against Rapinoe for not standing for the anthem last Thursday. A U.S. Soccer representative confirmed to ESPN prior to Sunday’s game that Rapinoe received no discipline for kneeling on Thursday. That spokesperson added that Rapinoe could be punished if she continued to kneel during the anthem.
As she knelt for the anthem on Sunday in Atlanta, Rapinoe says she noticed a mixed reaction from fans.
“Obviously there were boos tonight, boos and cheers tonight. I totally respect that,” Rapinoe said. “People feel a certain way, and I want to be respected for the way that I feel. I think that’s their right to do that. I totally understand that. That said, there’s some people that support me.”
Rapinoe kneeling for the anthem on Sunday did not prevent her from playing in the game. As was the case last Thursday, Rapinoe came on as a sub in the second half. Rapinoe even played a role in the team’s third goal as the U.S. Women beat the Netherlands 3-1.
It now remains to be seen whether U.S. Soccer will now step in and punish Rapinoe after declining to stand on Sunday. The U.S. Women have a pair of games against Switzerland scheduled for October 19 and 23, so there is no rush in U.S. making a decision about any potential punishment for Rapinoe.
Of course, with no competitive matches on the horizon for Rapinoe and the National Team, head coach Jill Ellis may use those games to bring in younger players. This means there’s no guarantee Rapinoe, a veteran member of the national team, will be part of the team for those matches, regardless of how U.S. Soccer feels about Rapinoe kneeling for the anthem for the second time. Rapinoe will be in action Sunday with her club team in a game that will be nationally televised.
Rapinoe does not appear too concerned about any possible punishment from U.S. Soccer. Instead, Rapinoe simply wants to continue the conversation started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick several weeks ago.
“I think just the conversation at large is really kind of picking up steam,” Rapinoe says. “I think more people are engaged in the issues I want to talk about.”
Rapinoe also says she is very much focused on the conversation and has no plans to stop kneeling for the anthem.
“I think in a large way it’s ‘OK, you’ve knelt, you’ve made your point.’ But I don’t necessarily feel like that,” Rapinoe says. “I don’t know what that looks like. Do I kneel forever? I don’t know, probably not. But I think until I can feel like I’m being more effective in other ways, then this seems appropriate to me.”
[Featured Image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]