Megan Rapinoe USAGetty

USWNT stars defy Donald Trump in racial inequality anthem protest

U.S. national team stars Becky Sauerbrunn, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe were among several players who stayed in the locker room for the national anthem ahead of an NWSL match Sunday.

Joining the widespread NFL protests against racial inequality in the wake of criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump, nine players chose to sit out the national anthem before FC Kansas City's 1-0 away win over the Seattle Reign.

Kansas City's Sauerbrunn, Leroux, Yael Averbuch and Desiree Scott were joined in the protest by Seattle's Rapinoe, Lauren Barnes, Diana Matheson, Elli Reed and Madalyn Schiffel.

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Rapinoe famously followed the lead of then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by taking a knee before several NWSL and U.S. national team contests last year, prompting U.S. Soccer to rule that players must "stand respectfully" for the anthem during international matches.

Explaining her decision to join the protest, Leroux said she wanted to set an example for her one-year-old son, Cassius.

"I have a baby and I want him to look up to me and be proud of who I am and what I stand for," Leroux said in quotes published by SB Nation . "I think that speaks volumes to have other people who aren’t necessarily women of color to come and say, 'No, something needs to change.' I'm so honored to play with people like that.

"I remember someone saying something about Pinoe when she knelt about, 'Oh, well you did it in front of 23 people in comparison to the NFL players doing it in front of thousands and on TV.' And I think that what's important is, for me in my heart, that's the right thing to do."