For the second time in less than two weeks, Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem Thursday night in Columbus before the U.S. women’s national team took on Thailand in an international friendly. The soccer star first took a knee for the anthem as a member of the NWSL’s Seattle Reign as a “nod” to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“The very least that I can do is continue the conversation with [Kaepernick] by kneeling for the anthem,” Rapinoe said following the Reign’s 2-2 draw against the Chicago Red Stars on Sept. 4.
Thursday was the first time Rapinoe took a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner” while wearing her national team kit. U.S. Soccer responded by issuing a statement during the game, stating the organization has “an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played.”
“Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer. In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our Men’s and Women’s National Team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country. As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played.”
Rapinoe responded, telling ESPN “I truly feel like I’m representing my country in doing this,” following a 9-0 victory. She added that any repercussions from U.S. Soccer represent a “secondary thought,” saying that kneeling during the anthem is her First Amendment right.
On Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rapinoe locked arms with teammates and stood for the national anthem, before the Reign topped the Washington Spirit, 2-0. That came less than a week after Rapinoe wasn’t given the opportunity to kneel before a contest against Washington because Spirit owner Bill Lynch chose to have the anthem played while both clubs were still in the locker room. The move infuriated the 31-year-old midfielder, leading her to call Lynch homophobic.
The U.S. women’s national team plays again Sunday against the Netherlands at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.