The captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team said that she was proud to kneel during the national anthem.
Megan Rapinoe was the first white athlete to kneel during the anthem when she did so in 2016 after NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the action as a protest against alleged racism by law enforcement against black people.
Rapinoe no longer kneels during the anthem but she did ignore it before a game in June.
Speaking with Anderson Cooper on CNN on July 9, Rapinoe said she had “an immense sense of pride” while kneeling.
Megan Rapinoe on kneeling during the national anthem: “I had this immense sense of pride” pic.twitter.com/WbEFCt3ENM
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) July 10, 2019
The soccer player said that it was difficult in part because of backlash she faced.
“Especially after the first time that I did it, you know, knowing how angry people were, but it also was difficult and heavy, but I have this immense sense of pride and responsibility in doing that. So I think that’s where the strength of doing it a number of times came from.”
She said she didn’t see kneeling during the anthem as disrespecting the flag or anthem.
“I think that protest is not comfortable ever. It’s going to make people uncomfortable. It’s going to, you know, force people to look inwards and question, you know, everything they thought that they knew. It’s not convenient. It doesn’t feel good really for anyone,” she said.
“Even in those moments, kneeling, those were, you know, some of the most crazy personal moments that I’ve ever had, but that’s what it takes—progress is hard.”
Cooper noted that the U.S. Soccer Federation passed a rule that barred players from kneeling during the anthem, asking Rapinoe if she would still be kneeling if the rule wasn’t put into place. She said she didn’t know.
“Can you see a day where you do put your hand over your heart and sing the national anthem?” he wondered.
“Yes, I’m very hopeful for that, absolutely. I mean, I think it’s going to take a lot of years and a tremendous amount of work by this country, but I’m absolutely hopeful for that,” Rapinoe responded.
She also reiterated that she would not go the White House and claimed every teammate she’s spoken to would not either.
“I don’t think that we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration,” she said. Rapinoe said she would accept invitations from Democratic lawmakers from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to go to Washington.
“Yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real substantive conversation and that believe in the same things that we believe in,” she added.
Trump recently responded to some of Rapinoe’s previous comments, including her saying she wouldn’t go to the White House.
The president championed some of his administration’s accomplishments, such as low unemployment for minorities and the criminal justice reform bill he got passed, adding: “Other than the NBA … leagues and teams love coming to the White House.”
He then extended an invitation to the U.S. women’s soccer team to visit the White House regardless of whether the team brings back the World Cup.
“We haven’t yet invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose,” he said. “Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!”