The Washington Spirit women’s soccer club played the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before players came out on the field Wednesday for a match against the Seattle Reign ― and said they did it so U.S. women’s soccer star /www.americansoccernow.com/articles/megan-rapinoe-kneels-for-anthem-at-nwsl-match"}}">Megan Rapinoe wouldn’t be able to “hijack” the event.
The change was made in response to Rapinoe’s actions during a match on Sunday, when she took a knee during the national anthem. Rapinoe, who plays for Seattle, later said she did it as an act of solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In a statement, the Washington organization said that in light of Rapinoe’s “public declaration” that she would continue such demonstrations, it decided to play the anthem ahead of time “rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent.”
“To willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans for any cause would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves,” the National Women’s Soccer League team added.
In an interview with The Washington Post following Wednesday’s match, Rapinoe did not mince words.
Following her initial protest last week, Rapinoe, who came out as gay in 2012, told American Soccer Now that her actions were a “little nod to Kaepernick.” Rapinoe said she knows “what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.”
Kaepernick made waves late last month during a preseason NFL game against the Green Bay Packers when he remained seated during the national anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said at the time.
In a post to Twitter, Rapinoe said her own gesture was “the least” she could do to “keep the conversation going.”
In its own statement Wednesday, the Seattle Reign stood behind its star player, saying that while it empathizes with those who were offended by her actions, it would “continue to support Megan in her efforts to make a positive impact on our country, encouraging her to do so in a way that provokes needed conversation about serious issues, in a manner consistent with the values of our organization.”
The Washington Post reports that NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush was in attendance at Wednesday’s match but unaware of the Spirit’s plans.
“I would have preferred to have had an honest dialogue of what we wanted to do, what their goals were, and then work through it,” Plush told the Post. “I don’t suggest I have all the answers, but it’s better to talk about it. I’m disappointed.”
“It’s an emotional issue,” Plush added. “I’m trying to be aware of that and respectful of different points of view. It’s a challenging issue and a challenging time. We’ve got some issues we need to work through as a country.”
Washington defeated Seattle, 2-1.