On Thursday night, American soccer star Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the U.S. Women's National Team match against Thailand. It was the first time Rapinoe had done this prior to a U.S. match. For the past couple of weeks, Rapinoe, as a show of support for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, had taken a knee during the playing of the anthem prior to NWSL matches to protest injustice against minorities in the United States.
U.S. Soccer didn't appreciate Rapinoe's actions. Shortly after Rapinoe took a knee, U.S. Soccer released a statement during the ESPN2 broadcast of the game, saying that they fully expect players to stand during the anthem, claiming that they want players to use the time during the anthem to "reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country." And, ironically, that's exactly what Rapinoe was doing.
"I think that we need to look at all the things that we say the flag and the anthem mean and everybody that it represents and all the liberties and the freedoms that we want it to mean to everybody, and ask ourselves, Is it protecting everybody in the same way?" Rapinoe told ESPN after the game. "Is it giving all the freedoms to everyone in the country the same way, or are there certain people that don't feel as protected as I do every day?"
When asked what the difference was of protesting while wearing a U.S. Soccer jersey as opposed to doing it while playing for her club team, Rapinoe cited her First Amendment rights, telling ESPN, "I think it is different. I think it means a lot more. I truly feel like I am representing my country by doing this, in representing everyone that lives in this country, not just the people who look like me."
After the Seattle Reign match on September 4—when Rapinoe first took a knee—she cited her personal experience as a gay woman as a measure for understanding how minorities are treated in this country.
"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It's important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don't need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that's really powerful."
It's still not clear if U.S. Soccer will take any action against Rapinoe for taking a knee during the national anthem. But it's a terrifying window into what freedoms we do represent, when citizens are slapped on the wrist for exercising them.