Last night, Megan Rapinoe, a reserve midfielder for the Seattle Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League, was prevented from continuing her silent protest.
In solidarity with football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who cited race as a reason for not standing at attention during the national anthem, Rapinoe had been taking a knee on the sideline. Only last night, the management of the Washington Spirit altered the pregame program, playing the national anthem before the ritualized team tunnel and player introductions.
This prevented Rapinoe from making a public show of solidarity with Kaepernick and against racial injustice.
The Washington Spirit is an NWSL franchise owned by an Air Force veteran named Bill Lynch. His statement about the anthem caper was carefully crafted:
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.
The thing is, what the Spirit front office did was deny Rapinoe her rights to free expression under the First Amendment.
A group of Spirit supporters, the Spirit Squadron, recognized what was going on and chanted “Let her kneel!” when she entered the match in the second half.
Somehow, I get the feeling that Lynch’s actions are going to lead to a lengthening and deepening conversation about Kaepernick’s protest rather than stifling it.
UPDATE: Apparently, an entire NFL team is going to be joining Kaepernick’s protest this weekend, and with the blessing of team ownership.