U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem Sunday night before the Seattle Reign’s match against the Chicago Red Stars “in a little nod” to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"It was very intentional," Rapinoe told American Soccer Now after Seattle's 2-2 tie in the National Women's Soccer League game. "It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he's standing for right now. I think it's actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn't. We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.
"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It's important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don't need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that's really powerful."
The 31-year-old Rapinoe helped the U.S. win the World Cup last year and played in the Rio Olympics.
"It's the least I can do. Keep the conversation going," Rapinoe tweeted.
Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem to protest racial injustice and minority oppression sent a shockwave across the nation when he remained seated on the bench before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.
On Thursday, he and safety Eric Reid kneeled during the anthem on Salute to the Military Night in San Diego. Seattle Seahawks defensive back Jeremy Lane sat before his game against the Oakland Raiders as well.
Kaepernick has said that he will continue to sit or kneel through the national anthem until he feels change has been made. He also plans to donate the first $1 million he makes this season to groups that help communities.
"I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed," Kaepernick said last week. "To me this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."
Santa Clara police have now threatened to stop working 49ers games in retaliation to Kaepernick’s protest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.