In Monday’s World Cup game between the U.S. women’s soccer team and Spain, 33-year-old Megan Rapinoe not only made headlines on the field but the sideline as well. With penalty kicks to clench the win and a confidence that caught President Trump’s eye, Rapinoe has a great deal to be proud of. She’s one of the many U.S. athletes to use the National Anthem as a time for protest, and there couldn’t be anything more American.
Rapinoe, an openly gay player on the U.S. Women’s soccer team, is rightfully using her platform to stand up for issues that hit close to home. Following NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s lead, Rapinoe has protested discrimination against the LGBTQ community by first kneeling, and now staying silent, during the National Anthem. Although Trump deems this form of protest wrong and has called it disrespectful or reason to fire a player, Rapinoe doesn’t appear to have any intentions of stopping.
Despite Trump’s distaste for Rapinoe’s actions, he recently tweeted that he intends to invite the U.S. women’s soccer team to the White House after the World Cup whether they win or lose. Rapinoe was quick to refuse his informal offer, to which Trump responded with a list of issues he has addressed including unemployment rates among African-Americans and the poverty line. What Trump fails to realize is, though these are important causes, they are not what Rapinoe was primarily protesting.
In an interview with American Soccer Now, Rapinoe remarked, “Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.” It took the U.S. until 2015, only four years ago, to rule gay marriage constitutional. That may seem like a win, but 21 other nations beat the U.S. to the punch. In fact, Canada legalized it a whole 10 years earlier. On top of that, the current administration has continually attacked the rights of the LGBTQ community by banning transgender people from the military.
What most people with privilege fail to see is that it’s not just legal discrimination that oppresses groups like the LGBTQ and black community protest; they also protest the societal discrimination and exclusion they face every day. Victory doesn’t stop at legal action — it stops when acceptance for everyone is the status quo. Rapinoe is here to tell the people this hasn’t happened yet.
Many Americans who side with President Trump believe that refusing to honor the National Anthem in the traditional way — by placing a hand over your heart and singing along — is disrespectful to the troops who laid down their lives for the people of the United States, but those same troops include soldiers from the very groups represented by Kaepernick and Rapinoe’s protests. What’s truly disrespectful is the lack of common decency some Americans have for the humanity of certain groups of people.
The National Anthem is a meditative, captive moment observed before all sporting events that has provided a time for athletes to bring up issues about values they feel the U.S. has strayed from. Rapinoe could hold her middle finger high or yell protest chants, but instead, she chooses to politely, and powerfully, bring attention to the faults in this country by standing firm during the anthem. These athletes haven’t used violence or hate speech to get their opinions across. They have merely chosen to not respect a flag they don’t feel respects them.
Protest goes back to the 1700s and it’s the very action that brought about the founding of this nation. If tea was never thrown into the harbor or colonies never refused to pay their taxes, the U.S. would look different today. The founders included the right to assemble and the right to free speech in the U.S. Constitution to support the people’s right to push back against unjust rule from the government. There’s nothing more American than protesting during the song that represents this country.
Ryann Sheehy is a junior theater and media arts and design major. Contact Ryann at email@example.com.