More athletes are starting to take notice of social injustices and following suit to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The latest is U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who knelt during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before her Seattle Reign faced the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.
After a 2-2 draw, Rapinoe told John Halloran of American Soccer Now that her kneeling was “a nod to Kaepernick.”
— ❤️NWSL⚽️ (@gbpackfan32) September 5, 2016
The two-time Olympian didn’t hold back her thoughts in a separate interview with ESPN W’s Julie Foudy:
“I am disgusted with the way he has been treated and the fans and hatred he has received in all of this,” Rapinoe said of the media response to Kaepernick.
“It is overtly racist. ‘Stay in your place black man.’ Just didn’t feel right to me. And quite honestly being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected, so I can absolutely sympathize with that feeling.”
Rapinoe is the first non-black athlete to publicly support Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem.
Since coming out after the 2012 Olympics, Rapinoe has been an advocate for LGBT rights and has worked closely with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as well as other organizations.
Kaepernick initially sat during the playing of the anthem in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, Aug. 26 and was swamped by media afterward.
The quarterback continued his protest of social injustice Thursday in a game against the San Diego Chargers, where he knelt during the anthem after having a conversation with Nate Boyer — an Army Green Beret and former standout football player who suggested the motion.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat down in a separate game and teammate Eric Reid joined Kaepernick kneeling during Thursday’s playing of the anthem.
Rapinoe said she will continue to kneel in every match she plays from this game forward.
“The very least that I can do is continue the conversation with him by kneeling for the anthem,” she said.
“(We) need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color (are) treated. It needs to be everyone confronting problems in our country, not just people of color.”
The 31-year-old University of Portland product seems to have gained herself some fans.
Now I'm Googling to see where I can buy a Megan Rapinoe jersey! pic.twitter.com/YpcwJ03FTs
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 5, 2016
Rapinoe is no stranger to standing up for her beliefs, as she joined her teammates Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn in filing a claim against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for wage discrimination early this year.
The claim stated that players in the U.S. women’s soccer team were underpaid in some cases up to four times less than their male national team counterparts.
The Seattle midfielder has done what many athletes in the modern era are shying away from — taking a stand for what they believe in.
While the fear of media backlash and criticism over social media often keeps athletes from voicing their opinions about politics and social issues — Rapinoe is unapologetically leading the charge in the NWSL.
“One player asked why I did it,” said Rapinoe. “I said for Colin Kaepernick. She said ‘Good for you.’ Otherwise no reaction from team.”
Kaepernick’s and Rapinoe’s actions are just the start of a possible series of athletes using their platform to raise awareness over the recent injustices and social issues that plague the country.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.