BOYDS, Md. — If Megan Rapinoe wanted to continue her stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick before the Seattle Reign’s NWSL game against the Washington Spirit on Wednesday, she wasn’t given the chance.
On Sunday, the midfielder became the first active non-black professional athlete to display support for the 49ers quarterback when she took a knee for the national anthem before the Reign’s game, but on Wednesday night the hosts played The Star-Spangled Banner before the teams took the field for the game.
“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,” the team said in a statement.
Rapinoe and members of both teams warmed up for about 25 minutes following a rain delay. They then left the field before the anthem and returned shortly after for the start of the game.
“To be honest I didn’t hear (the anthem) and I wasn’t exactly sure why it wasn’t played but (expletive) unbelievable,” Rapinoe said when asked about her reaction after the anthem’s timing after her team’s 2-1 loss. “Saddened by it. I think that it’s pretty clear what the message is that I’m trying to bring to light when I knelt in Chicago and what I’ve continued trying to talk about the last few days and what I intend to talk about and clearly with (Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s) actions, I think that that’s a necessary conversation.”
She also slammed the Spirit’s statement, which used the word "hijack" multiple times so close to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“I think it was incredibly distasteful to say that I — four days before one of the worst tragedies we’ve had in our country — to say that I hijacked this event … it’s just really disappointing and disrespectful in my opinion. You talk about me disrespecting the flag, he didn’t even give people a chance, give both teams a chance to even stand in front of it and show their respect. It’s unbelievable.”
Rapinoe had extra security with her at the game and said that she hadn’t personally read any threats but said the club had received some threats. The security, she said, was just an extra precaution.
“It shows me we really need to have the conversation that I want to talk about,” she said. “Case in point, right there.”
League commissioner Jeff Plush was in attendance at the game and said he was surprised when he rushed out to the field to see the anthem and the players weren’t there. He had no knowledge of the Spirit’s plans before the game.
“We have procedures and protocols and so we’ll digest everything,” he said of the league’s next steps. “I’m understanding that it’s a complex issue, so I’m trying to just be very detached from it and think it all through and be as measured as possible.”