Echoing the protests of football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, American soccer player Megan Rapinoe kneeled during the national anthem Thursday night, a decision U.S. Soccer later did not support.
“Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer,” the organization said in a statement during the U.S. women’s team’s friendly match against Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.
Although the governing body didn’t mention any punitive actions against Rapinoe, it added, “we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played.”
In a movement that began with San Francisco 49ers back-up quarterback Kaepernick, Rapinoe joins other pro athletes — and high schoolers — who have protested racial inequality in the U.S. by refusing to stand during the presentation of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I think that the term ‘represent your country,’ when you play for your national team, is thrown about a lot,” Rapinoe told ESPN after Thursday’s game. “I truly feel like I’m representing my country in doing this, and representing everybody that lives in this country, not just the people that look like me or the people that I know [and] people that I have experiences with.”
She also said that she plans to continue kneeling during the national anthem.
— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) September 16, 2016
After his team’s game on Monday night, Kaepernick said he does not “want to kneel forever,” but “there are some major changes that we can make that are very reasonable.”
“For me it was something that, I couldn’t see another #SandraBland, #TamirRice, #WalterScott, #EricGarner. The list goes on and on and on,” he said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “At what point do we do something about it? At what point do we take a stand and as a people say, this isn’t right?”
Thursday was the second time Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem, but the first time she has done so wearing the U.S. uniform. On Sept. 4, the midfielder knelt as the anthem played ahead of a game between her club team, the Seattle Reign, and the Chicago Red Stars. She then stood and locked arms with her Seattle teammates during the anthem before a game on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
— ❤️NWSL⚽️ (@gbpackfan32) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe was also denied an opportunity to kneel on Sept. 7 when an opposing team chose to play the anthem while the teams were still in the locker room.
“I am very proud to pull on the shirt and be able to play for my country, and also represent my country in a different way, in speaking out for people that are oppressed,” she told ESPN.
Rapinoe said she spoke with her coach and U.S. Soccer about her decision to kneel during the anthem.
Rapinoe’s coach Jill Ellis told ESPN that even though she supports her player taking a stand, she expects members of the women’s national team to remain on their feet for anthem.
“I was very clear in what I expected and needed,” she said. “Everything for me, from the day I took over this job, it’s about the team. And if something supersedes the team, that’s where I get concerned. And I think that’s something I have to reflect on now at this point.”