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Midfielder Megan Rapinoe (15) is shown playing for the United States during the Rio Olympics. (Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)

Soccer team plays anthem early to prevent Rapinoe from kneeling during it in support of Kaepernick

In order to prevent Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe from kneeling during the national anthem ahead of Wednesday night’s match against the Spirit, the Washington-D.C.-based club played the song ahead of schedule “rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent.”

Rapinoe made national news with her decision to take a knee prior to last Sunday’s match at Chicago, describing her gesture as a “very intentional” nod of support to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and against the backlash he’s received for a similar stance.

The U.S. women’s national team midfielder also conveyed her intention to continue that gesture going forward, and the Reign sent out a statement on Wednesday morning explaining its decision to “support Megan ... in a manner consistent with the values of our organization.”

The Spirit countered with a release of its own shortly before kickoff on Wednesday.

“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,” the club statement said, “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.

“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.

“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.

“As a veteran owned team, the national anthem holds an exceptionally special meaning for this organization. Our owner Bill Lynch has lost personal friends during overseas conflicts and has other close friends who have also lost loved ones. Playing the national anthem prior to sports events became standard during World War II and was a way to express the team’s and fan’s patriotism and show support for the U.S. Military. The tradition of honoring our military and our patriotism before our games is very important to us. We strongly feel that there are better ways to begin a conversation about a cause than tarnishing a tradition that is so important to so many.

“To willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans for any cause would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves. Professional athletes have incredible numbers of followers, to which we believe they have the ability to articulate a conversation with objectives and plans and begin a serious conversation directly, or through traditional media appearances, without insulting our military and our fans.

“We do regret that this decision has denied the players who had no intention of taking a knee their own opportunity to honor our great country from the field. This is an issue we are communicating to and with them about personally.”

Seattle, which currently sits four points out of the playoff spots with three matches to play, badly needs a road victory to keep its postseason hopes alive. Rapinoe started the game on the bench.


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