BOYDS, Md. (TheBlaze/AP) — The Washington Spirit prevented Seattle midfielder Megan Rapinoe from kneeling again during the national anthem by altering its pregame ceremonies rather than “subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent.”
The National Women’s Soccer League team moved up the anthem, playing it while the teams were off the field at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
“We decided to play the anthem in our stadium ahead of schedule rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent,” the Spirit said in a statement. “We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step, but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise.”
On Sunday before the Reign’s match in Chicago, Rapinoe knelt during the anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick — the San Francisco quarterback who has refused to stand during the anthem to protest racial injustice and minority oppression. She said at the time she planned to continue to kneel.
“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 Spirit said in the statement.
Following the match, Rapinoe said she was saddened by the Spirit’s move, calling it “f***ing unbelievable.”
“I think it was incredibly distasteful to say that I, four days before one of the worst tragedies we’ve had in our country … hijacked this event,” she added.
During the match a group of supporters chanted, “Let her kneel!”
The Spirit said team owner Bill Lynch is a veteran who has lost friends in overseas conflicts, as had his close friends.
“The tradition of honoring our military and our patriotism before our games is very important to us,” the statement said. “We strongly feel that there are better ways to begin a conversation about a cause than tarnishing a tradition that is so important to so many.”
Here’s an interview with Rapinoe after the game. (Content warning: Profanity):