Remember when Megan Rapinoe and the US women’s soccer team disgraced the nation in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem? Seems like patriotism is back. The team is now standing for the anthem—now that Donald Trump is no longer in office.
According to teammate Crystal Dunn’s comments to ESPN, players are “past the protesting phase and actually move into putting all of the talk into actual work.” In a Today Show interview, she was also quoted stating, “I think those that were collectively kneeling felt like we were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism.” The move is an improvement from the perspective of patriotic Americans, but all is not as it seems.
Prior to the US women’s team match against Brazil, the team stood while wearing Black Lives Matter jackets. From their perspective, the strategy has changed from kneeling to clothing.
But there appears to be more to the plan than moving from talk to work. This is the same team where Rapinoe said she would refuse to visit the White House if the team won a world championship. Why? Her hatred of Trump.
As captain of the US women’s soccer team, Rapinoe has been outspoken in her protest of white supremacy and in support of Black Lives Matter. She also criticized the Trump administration’s treatment of LGBTQ individuals, filling her responses with direct expletives toward the former president.
Whether the change will last, only time will tell. The Brazil match marked the first time the entire US women’s team has stood for the national anthem in some time, perhaps back to 2016 when Rapinoe followed the lead of former NFL 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In previous matches, the team has been divided, with some players kneeling while others have stood.
Kaepernick’s legacy has since been mixed. After leaving his team and the NFL, many Americans continued to oppose his kneeling actions. Other progressive outlets embraced his “woke” efforts, including Nike, positioning him in a commercial as a civil rights icon.
Since the 2020 George Floyd police brutality controversy, most of the US women’s team has continued to kneel at matches. Some liberal outlets have even labelled them one of the top social justice sports team in the nation.
However, some have suggested the move is not entirely political. With the US women’s soccer team’s television ratings tanking over the past two years, perhaps the response also intends to win back viewership in a time when numbers determine both popularity and dollars.
Plus, it helped that the US team won 2-0. Winning isn’t everything, as the team has discovered via its ratings nosedive due in large part to the kneeling controversy. Yet there is certainly something to be said for an American team that stands together and wins together. Hopefully the US women’s soccer team will continue to address social issues without disrespecting the flag, offering a symbol of unity in a culture desperately in need of it.