One of Megan Rapinoe's most memorable goal celebrations ended in her belting out a rendition of "Born in the USA" at a match against Colombia during the 2011 World Cup. The U.S. women's national soccer star is a beloved member of the team, with her flashy on field presence. But the past couple of years, Rapinoe has been withholding her patriotism on the pitch because of what she perceives to be deep seated injustices in Washington under an administration she views as "racist," "misogynist," and more.
In September 2016, Rapinoe followed NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's lead and took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before the start of a Team USA match versus Thailand.
Head coach Jill Ellis and the U.S. Soccer Federation were, let's say, not thrilled with her display.
Ellis said she "understands" Rapinoe's desire to bring attention to important issues, but she "made sure she understands my perspective and my opinion and my expectation and what’s going to guide me is this is a team-first environment."
U.S. Soccer was more direct and told ESPN that they have simple expectations for their players.
"As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played," they wrote.
Rapinoe used a recent Yahoo interview to sound off on those guidelines.
“Using this blanketed patriotism as a defense against what the protest actually is was pretty cowardly. I think the NFL does it,” she told Yahoo Sports. “I felt like the statement from U.S. Soccer, and then the rule they made without ever talking to me, that was the same as what the NFL was doing – just to not have the conversation, to try to just stop me from doing what I'm doing instead of at least having a conversation, and trying to figure out a [solution] that makes sense for everyone.”
The Trump administration, she said, has turned her into a "walking protest," and her kneeling is her "F you" to the president.
"I'll probably never put my hand over my heart," Rapinoe said. "I'll probably never sing the national anthem again."
When pressed by Yahoo, the openly gay athlete said she could change her mind if she sees progress on LGBTQ rights, criminal justice, and wage inequality. She is one of several USWNT players currently suing U.S. Soccer for the supposed salary gaps between them and the men's U.S. soccer team.
Rapinoe's spurning of the anthem is especially notable because she is one of the USWNT's co-captains. Her teammates look to her for leadership.
The FIFA Women's World Cup starts in France in just a few weeks. Will Rapinoe follow through on her plans to kneel throughout the tournament, and, if so, will there be consequences?