Megan Rapinoe denied chance to protest during national anthem by opposing team

Written By Tom Gatto
Megan_Rapinoe_Getty_0906_ftr
(Getty Images)

UPDATE, 10:10 p.m. ET Sept. 7: NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush, who attended the game, told The Washington Post he was "disappointed" in the Spirit's move. He also said he was not aware the team would move up the time of the anthem, which was played after a weather delay and while the players were still in their respective locker rooms.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Megan Rapinoe was denied her right to protest Wednesday night.

The fact a private business, or more precisely a rival team, denied her that right makes the decision legal, but still unwise.

Rapinoe, one of the stars of the U.S. women's national soccer team, followed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's example last week and protested injustice against minorities and gays (Rapinoe is a lesbian) in the U.S. and took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before a match. On Wednesday, Rapinoe's Seattle Reign opponent, the Washington Spirit, played the anthem well in advance of the players taking the field, thus preventing Rapinoe from protesting again.

The Spirit defended their stance in a statement Wednesday night ( obtained by Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl ). The short version: Rapinoe is being disrespectful to the military by kneeling (note: some vets have voiced support for Kaepernick) and she should find another way to express her views. 

MORE: Patriotism, politics and sports

Mixed in with that message was this collection of contradictions:

"While we respect every individual's right to express themselves . . ."

But we don't respect Rapinoe's right to express herself in this manner.

". . . and believe Ms. Rapinoe to be an amazing individual with a huge heart . . ."

Might as well have just said, "Bless her heart" rather than be so openly disingenuous.

". . . we respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization's event . . ."

The Spirit used "hijack," a word about violence, more than once in their statement. That doesn't sound too respectful, and Rapinoe is not acting violently.

" . . . to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal — albeit worthy — cause."

If the protest was worthy, then why deny it? Let her kneel for two minutes, and then play the game.

MORE: Brandon Marshall says Kaepernick a 'patriot'

Oh, yeah, about the game:

"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."

Yeah, well, the focus is totally gone from the game and squarely on the Spirit's actions toward Rapinoe. The Spirit can clinch the National Women's Soccer League's NWSL Shield (regular-season title) with a win. Rapinoe's Reign are fifth in the 10-team league and competing for a playoff spot. This is a big game, but no one will care about that now.

Spirit owner Bill Lynch is a veteran. The team's statement said he and some of his friends have lost friends and loved ones in battle. That pain can never go away and is worthy of respect. But Rapinoe's (and Kaepernick's) beef is with police, not the military. And, as is mentioned every day by others around the country, soldiers, sailors and Marines serve to protect all of our rights and freedoms, even when people exercise them in disagreeable ways.

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