U.S. women's national team star Meghan Rapinoe has been one of the many professional athletes to take a knee during the national anthem to raise awareness of social injustice and inequality for African Americans, and in support of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. One NWSL team owner even tried to suppress her protest last month by changing the time when the anthem plays to when players weren't on the field.
She is also one of the few and most high-profile white athletes to support the movement. She hasn't really spoken out about her reasons but took to The Players Tribune Thursday to explain herself.
"I am kneeling because I have to do something," she wrote. "Anything. We all do."
Perhaps Rapinoe's outspokenness will amplify the voice of the movement. It certainly caused fissures when her own teammate, Carli Lloyd, criticized her last month for kneeling during the anthem prior to the start of a U.S. team match by calling it a distraction, and the U.S. Soccer Federation released some passive-aggressive statement about there only being one right and truly American way to act during the anthem.
And Rapinoe's involvement gives credence to the idea that the protests started by Kaepernick should be important to all Americans, not just black Americans. Her kneeling has a symbolism of its own.
"I haven't experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member's body lying dead in the street," she says. "But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache."
Obviously, this will be another fault line in the conversation that has arisen over the last two months. Already, we've seen some uncomfortable and ignorant reactions. If nothing else, Kaepernick's decision to sit and the ensuing fallout has forced the institutions and people of power across sports and media to show its true colors—let alone Twitter eggs. There are ESPN Radio affiliates unwilling to broadcast college football games because of protests by the marching band, and a survey of NFL fans revealing that nearly one-third were less likely to watch because of the protests.
"if you are in a position of influence like I am, you can use your platform to elevate the millions of voices being silenced, and support them in the tremendous work already being done," Rapinoe writes.
"Even more simply, you can ask yourself this question: "Do I truly care about equality for all people in this country?"
If the answer is yes, then demand to be a better, more educated, more empathetic version of yourself. And demand the same of every single person you know."