USWNT star Megan Rapinoe captured headlines last month after kneeling during the national anthem for both NWSL and USWNT games. The gesture was done both in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement’s fight against racist police practices and institutional racism. Her protests have garnered backlash from an NWSL owner, the media and certain parts of the fanbase, and even her own teammates.
But Rapinoe continued with her nonviolent protests. And, as she indicated in a newly-published editorial, she has no plans to stop any time soon.
”I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street. But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache. There is no perfect way to protest. I know that nothing I do will take away the pain of those families. But I feel in my heart it is right to continue to kneel during the national anthem, and I will do whatever I can to be part of the solution.”
Rapinoe also addressed critics who labeled her as unpatriotic or unfit to represent her country.
”I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way. When I take a knee, I am facing the flag with my full body, staring straight into the heart of our country’s ultimate symbol of freedom — because I believe it is my responsibility, just as it is yours, to ensure that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country.”
She also said that her stand against racial injustice will extend beyond anthem protests.
”But this is about more than just raising awareness. I know that actions must be taken to help bring about real change. Right now, I am reaching out to community leaders, corporate partners and leaders within the Black Lives Matter movement to figure out all the ways I can best support the efforts already in motion. While there may not be a perfect plan or solution in front of us, I encourage everyone reading this to join in the conversation. Together, we can listen to the people who are living this nightmare every day. We can try to empathize with their pain and start to understand a more complete picture of what is going on in our society. We can read articles, editorials, books and stories in order to peel back the layers of this centuries-old oppression.”
The whole article is worth a read, if for no other reason than for the opportunity for Rapinoe to lay out her arguments in her own words rather than mediated through shouty cable sports news or Twitter.
For the time being at least, her pledge to continue protesting is a moot point. The Seattle Reign failed to qualify for the NWSL playoffs, which means her club obligations are done until next spring. Meanwhile, Jill Ellis named her squad for the next international break earlier today— featuring a pair of friendlies against Switzerland— and Rapinoe was not included.
It’s highly unlikely Rapinoe’s protest was part of the decision to leave her out of the upcoming round of USWNT games. She hasn’t quite finished recovering from an ACL injury, and the relatively low stakes involved in friendlies against the Swiss probably made for as good an opportunity as any to finish rehab work. And in any event, Ellis has made it clear she wants to use this round to give younger players a shot and expand the player pool; she also left big names such as Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger off the squad list while including the likes of Dani Colaprico and newly-minted NWSL MVP Lynn Williams.
Still. It’s only a matter of time before Rapinoe returns to the USWNT. And in that time, it’s a sad and infuriating inevitability that more innocent black people will be turned into hashtags. Rapinoe has made it clear that so long as her protests are necessary, they will be forthcoming.