For the second straight match in a U.S. jersey, Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem. Rapinoe did not start tonight’s match and knelt in front of the team’s bench where she stood with the other substitutes.
Prior to the game, captain Carli Lloyd admitted on the FS1 pregame show that Rapinoe’s actions were a distraction.
"I do think it's a distraction." - Carli Lloyd on Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the national anthem, speaking to @jennytaft on FS1— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) September 18, 2016
Grant Wahl discussed the reaction from within the team in an Insider Notes column on Sports Illustrated’s website. Wahl wrote that “several players” disagree with her method of protest, but not the reasoning behind it. Some tried to talk her out of kneeling in Columbus on Thursday.
After the match, Rapinoe said:
“It affects everyone so I want to appreciate and make sure that I’m keeping everyone in the loop and hearing their opinions and giving mine.”
After the anthem was sung, there was no audible reaction to Rapinoe that could be heard in the stadium. However, at least one sign referencing Rapinoe’s actions was shared via Twitter.
Another sign that said “Retire Rapinoe” was seen in the lower level near midfield.
Rapinoe subbed into the game, along with Crystal Dunn, in the 64th minute. There was a very noticeable reaction to the announcement of Rapinoe’s entry into the game, lots of boos mixed with cheers. The mixed reaction, this time more negative, continued upon Rapinoe’s first touches of the ball. Boos could be heard every time she touched the ball during her time on the field, but more and more cheers could be noticed as well as the game went on.
After the match, Rapinoe told the media:
“I think that the conversation at large is picking up steam.”
“I heard a little bit in Columbus as well. There were boos tonight, boos and cheers tonight. I totally respect that. People feel a certain way, I want to be respected for the way that I feel and it’s their right to do that. I totally understand that.”
“Taking that in stride and understanding, respecting, and appreciating that people can be upset about what I’m talking about or the fact that I’m kneeling. But I also know that there’s so much support out there, I feel that and it’s important for me to take a step back and see both sides. The conversation is happening and it’s going in a positive direction with more people engaged in the issues that we’re talking about.”
U.S. coach Jill Ellis also discussed the issue in her post-game press conference.
“I wouldn’t say Megan would have been surprised with that. Was I? No. It’s a very tough topic. Megan’s intent is to have people talk about that.”
“People are going to be very passionate, very opinionated. I respect that too. My hope is that we move forward in a positive way. Not just in this, but in a lot of different things.”
When asked about what it would take to stop kneeling during the national anthem, Rapinoe said:
“I don’t know exactly what that looks like. I mean, do I kneel forever? Probably not. I think until I can feel like I’m being more effective in other ways then this seems appropriate to me.”
“Clearly some people are just upset that I’m kneeling and using that as a form of protest. I understand that. There is no perfect way, but for some people that’s just really not the way. I appreciate that.”