United States midfielder Megan Rapinoe planned to kneel for the playing of the national anthem on Wednesday, as she had done three days earlier, but the opposing team’s owner had different ideas.
Instead of allowing Rapinoe an opportunity to protest freely, Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch ordered the playing of the anthem before players took the field for a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) match against Rapinoe’s visiting Seattle Reign.
Lynch, a military veteran, said he made the decision “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,” the team wrote in a statement.
Rapinoe, a two-time Olympian, first knelt for the anthem on Sunday before a home match against the Chicago Red Stars.
She said she was demonstrating in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has declined to stand during the NFL’s preseason to call attention to racial inequality and police relations in the United States.
The actions of Kaepernick, Rapinoe and a handful of other athletes have sparked a nationwide discussion with mixed reviews.
Those in opposition are outraged because of a perceived disrespect of the American flag and, by association, the armed forces.
The Reign issued a statement on Wednesday saying the team would support Rapinoe’s decision to continue to protest should she choose.
Lynch, via the Spirit’s statement, said he believes athletes should find other means to get their message across “without insulting our military and our fans”.
“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 organisation’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause,” the statement read.
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