BOYDS, Md. – Megan Rapinoe was stymied in a bid for a second national anthem protest Wednesday night when Washington's National Women's Soccer League team moved up the pregame ceremonies.
"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 Washington Spirit said in a statement.
On Sunday before the Seattle Reign's game in Chicago, Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem "in a little nod" to Colin Kaepernick — the San Francisco quarterback whose refusal to stand for the anthem to protest racial injustice and minority oppression came to public notice when he remained seated on the bench before a preseason game against Green Bay.
"We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step, but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise," the Spirit said in the statement. "While we respect every individual's right to express themselves, and believe Ms. Rapinoe to be an amazing individual with a huge heart; we respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization's event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal — albeit worthy — cause."
Earlier Wednesday, the Reign said they are standing by Rapinoe. In a statement, the team said it recognizes Rapinoe's action "was offensive to some and a source of inspiration to others."
"We will continue to encourage all Reign FC players to participate in the pre-match ceremony, which honors those who have served and made sacrifices on our behalf," the Reign said. "We will also continue to allow players to participate in the pre-match ceremony in a manner consistent with their personal beliefs, reflecting our respect for the rights earned and defended by those fighting for our nation."
The 31-year-old Rapinoe helped the U.S. win the World Cup last year and played in the Rio Olympics.