Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem prior to the Seattle Reign’s game on Sunday. She was expected to do the same on Wednesday, but the Washington Spirit moved the timing of the anthem to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
The Spirit sent an email on Wednesday minutes before the game against the Reign. The release admitted to playing the nation anthem before either team made their way to the pitch in order to prevent Rapinoe from protesting.
This email from the Washington Spirit in regards to playing the national anthem before the teams took the field. pic.twitter.com/k9HWmMJLmF— RJ Allen (@CaptainWOSO) September 8, 2016
They specifically reference the U.S. soccer midfielder’s desire to protest before the game as a “method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal - albeit worthy - cause.”
Rapinoe, a gay woman, has said that she sympathizes with Colin Kaepernick and his protest that aims to bring to light the many injustices and inequalities that Americans — especially people of color — face every day.
“It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this,” Rapinoe said. “We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”
According to the Washington Post’s Steven Goff, NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush was in attendance in Maryland on Wednesday and was not aware of the Spirit’s change in routine, saying, “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.”
Ultimately, the Spirit are using owner Bill Lynch’s veteran status to deny Rapinoe’s right to protest. And while the franchise does explicitly state that they “respectfully” disagree with Rapinoe, it may only be a performative gesture. Calling it a “hijack” gives a better indication as to how the franchise feels about her taking a knee during the national anthem.
And by announcing that the anthem was moved, the Washington Spirit essentially achieved what they wanted to prevent. They became the distraction from the game between the Spirit and Reign.
During the game, fans became aware and chanted in support of Rapinoe, who entered the game as a sub. Even fans of the Spirit chanted for Rapinoe.
The Spirit email did mention that they will communicate with each player individually.
After the game, Rapinoe voiced her displeasure over the Spirit’s decision to reschedule the national anthem. She called it “fucking unbelievable," claiming that Lynch’s homophobia is what prompted him to make the decision.
"Bill Lynch is homophobic," Rapinoe says. To be clear, her main point was about the Spirit's lack of Pride nights, not the anthem.— Caitlin Buckley (@caitlinbuckley2) September 8, 2016
When the Supreme Court rules on gay marriage in 2015, every NWSL team showed support for the ruling except for the Spirit. The team was reached for comment, and responded with “at this time we do not have a comment on this matter."