American soccer player Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem on Thursday night before a game between the United States and Thailand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing protest.
Rapinoe had previously protested the Star Spangled Banner during a National Women’s Soccer League game on Sept. 4, but this is the first time she has done it while playing for the U.S. national team
U.S. Soccer was not pleased with her protest and issued a statement against it:
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.
"As of now I plan to keep kneeling," Rapinoe told ESPN in an interview after the game. "I’m trying to kind of formulate a better plan and an action step moving forward. But until then, this is how I can help, this is how I can use my voice going forward, and this is how I can be an ally in this space."
Jill Ellis, coach of the U.S. Women’s team, said after the game the protest could take away from the team’s focus.
"Everything for me, from the day I took over this job, it’s about the team. And if something supersedes the team, that’s where I get concerned," she told reporters.
Rapinoe had attempted to kneel during the national anthem before a Sept. 7 game at the Washington Spirit, but Spirit owner and Air Force veteran Bill Lynch preempted her protest by playing the Star Spangled Banner while the athletes were in their locker rooms.
The U.S. team prevailed over Thailand 9-0 on Thursday and will play Sunday in Atlanta against the Netherlands.