Megan Rapinoe did not get a chance to kneel during the national anthem before Wednesday night’s match between the Seattle Reign and the Washington Spirit.
Instead, Spirit officials altered their pregame ceremonies and played the anthem while both National Women’s Soccer League teams were in their locker rooms, The Associated Press reported. That prevented the Seattle midfielder from kneeling for a second consecutive match.
“We decided to play the anthem in our stadium ahead of schedule rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent,” the Spirit said in a statement.
"We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step,” the Spirit said, “but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise."
Rapinoe knelt during the anthem before Sunday’s match in Chicago, showing solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who has refused to stand during the anthem to protest racial injustice and minority oppression.
"To willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans for any cause would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves," the Spirit said in the statement.
After the match, Rapinoe said she was saddened by the Spirit's move.
"It was incredibly distasteful, four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say I tried to hijack this event,” Rapinoe told the Washington Post.
The Spirit said team owner Bill Lynch is a veteran who has lost friends in overseas conflicts, as had his close friends.