United States midfielder Megan Rapinoe knelt in protest of the national anthem before a league match on Sunday.
Rapinoe, a two-time Olympian, said her actions were intended as a display of solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not stood for the playing of the anthem during the NFL’s preseason to call attention to racial inequality and police relations in USA.
Kaepernick’s protests, which started in earnest last month, have generated a nationwide conversation about the subject in recent weeks.
Rapinoe knelt before the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) clash between the Seattle Reign and Chicago Red Stars.
“It was very intentional,” Rapinoe told AmericanSoccerNow.com.
“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 colour 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.”
During the NFL’s final day of preseason play on Thursday, two more NFL players – 49er Eric Reid and Seattle Seahawks’ Jeremy Lane – took up arms with Kaepernick by protesting the anthem.
Reid knelt beside Kaepernick before the game against the San Diego Chargers after the quarterback was spotted sitting on the bench a week earlier.
Lane was sitting on the Seahawks sideline.
Much of the backlash directed toward Kaepernick – he was booed before the game in San Diego – came from his initial protest because of a perceived disrespect of the American flag and, by association, the armed forces.
He maintained that was not his intent, saying after the game he felt kneeling was more appropriate to “not take away from pride in our country but keep the focus on what the issues really are”.
Rapinoe has been a member of USA since 2006, winning Olympic gold in 2012 and the 2015 Women’s World Cup.