U.S. women’s national soccer team forward Megan Rapinoe knelt for the national anthem Thursday before playing Thailand in her first on-field appearance since a National Women’s Soccer League game Sept. 7.
Rapinoe on Sept. 4 became the first active non-black professional athlete to show support for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s cause by kneeling during The Star Spangled Banner prior to a game with the Seattle Reign.
Three days later she planned to kneel again, but the host Washington Spirit circumvented her wishes by playing the anthem before the teams were on the field. That night the Spirit released a statement that read, "In light of Seattle Reign and U.S. Women’s National Team member Megan Rapinoe’s public declaration that she intended to 'take a knee’ during the United States’ national anthem tonight, 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."
Megan Rapinoe is not in the starting XI tonight, but does indeed still kneel on the ground. pic.twitter.com/8ad7FuULRQ— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) September 16, 2016
Rapinoe said she was "saddened" by the Spirit’s move.
Thursday’s international friendly against Thailand in Columbus, Ohio, also is midfielder Heather O’Reilly’s final game after 15 years with the women’s national team, a span that included three World Cup and three Olympic appearances.
Prior to the game, coach Jill Ellis said on ESPN that she wanted to keep the spotlight on O’Reilly but that she had several conversations with Rapinoe and understood her feelings on the anthem protest. Ellis said she believes in a "team-first" environment and would address the matter with Rapinoe again.