A member of the 2015 World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer team is standing, or rather kneeling, in support of Colin Kaepernick. On Sunday night, Megan Rapinoe took a knee while the national anthem played ahead of a game between the Seattle Reign, where Rapinoe is a star midfielder, and the Chicago Red Stars. And the 31-year-old said after the game that she will continue to kneel going forward as a “nod to” the 49ers quarterback, according to NWSL reporter John Halloran.
“The very least that I can do is continue the conversation with him by kneeling for the anthem,” she said following the 2-2 draw.
“I am disgusted with the way [Kaepernick] has been treated and the fans and hatred he has received in all of this,” Rapinoe told espnW’s Julie Foudy. “It is overtly racist. ‘Stay in your place, black man.’ Just didn’t feel right to me. We need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color are treated.”
Rapinoe, who is openly gay, related Kaepernick’s concerns about race to her own about gay rights in the United States.
“Quite honestly, being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected,” she said, “so I can absolutely sympathize with that feeling.”
Kaepernick, who has long supported the #BlackLivesMatter movement, first gained attention for his latest protest method on Aug. 26 when he was spotted sitting while the national anthem played ahead of a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. When asked about it after the game, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Referring to police killings of mostly unarmed black men, Kaepernick’s actions earned him ire from many, including some fans who found the gesture disrespectful, and members of the Santa Clara, Calif., police union, who threatened to stop patrolling 49ers games as long as Kaepernick’s actions remained acceptable to the team.
The 49ers have remained neutral on Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the national anthem. In a statement, the team called the tradition “a special part of the pregame ceremony,” but conceded it is the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Rapinoe is the first athlete outside of the NFL who has joined Kaepernick in his protests. Prior to that, Kaepernick found an ally on his own team when safety Eric Reid kneeled next to him during the national anthem Thursday prior to the 49ers’ 31-21 preseason win over the San Diego Chargers.