NWSL team plays anthem early to avoid Rapinoe protest; Commish not pleased

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The Washington Spirit wasn’t interested in seeing Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe on one knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

So they played it early, and branded Rapinoe’s gesture a “hijacking” of the anthem. All this in front of the league commissioner, who was not pleased.

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The NWSL club explains the performance of the national anthem was intentionally early, and aimed at stopping Rapinoe from making another “nod to Colin Kaepernick”, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has decided to controversially kneel during the playing of the song.

Earlier Wednesday, the Reign issued a statement supporting Rapinoe, saying they would allow their players to act in accordance with their own beliefs.

Here’s the Spirit’s response:

“While we respect every individual’s right to express themselves, and believe Ms. Rapinoe to be an amazing individual with a huge heart; we respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal – albeit worthy – cause.”

Hijacking is a pretty strong word, and the Spirit’s move does carry more than a hint of petulance (You can read the full, lengthy statement here). Rapinoe has a Constitutional right to her form of protest, just as the Spirit fans have the right to blast her for it.

Then again, the Spirit have every Constitutional right to play the anthem early (though I’m no Framer).

But sneaking around the gesture just doesn’t feel right. And NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush was blindsided by the move. His comments are below, and this won’t be the end of this story.