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Rapinoe kneels in nod to Kaepernick's US national anthem protest

United States national team player and Seattle Reign winger Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem at the Reign's contest against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday night, joining NFL athletes Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Jeremy Lane in declining to stand when the Star Spangled Banner is played before a game.

Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, set off a national discussion when it emerged that he had been sitting during the anthem before pre-season matches. He was later joined by his team-mate Reid and Seattle Seahawks defensive back Lane. Now Rapinoe, who has advocated for a number gay rights groups and spoken in support of civil rights groups in the past, has joined the players in displaying discontent with the current state of affairs in the U.S.

“It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now," Rapinoe told reporters in Illinois after the match. "I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t. We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of colour on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.” 

Rapinoe, part of the Americans' gold-medal winning squad in 2012 and a Women's World Cup champion in 2015, came into the match in the 69th minute of the 2-2 draw. Rapinoe told ESPN's Julie Foudy that she intends to continue the protest for future games.