There was a lot at stake in Wednesday's NWSL game between the Washington Spirit and Seattle Reign.
With the right results, the Spirit could have clinched the NWSL regular-season title won
by the Reign in 2014 and 2015. A loss might have eliminated Seattle from the playoffs.
But the game won by the Spirit was overshadowed by the decision of the Spirit owner Bill
Lynch to play "The Star-Spangled Banner” while the teams were in their locker rooms, preventing Megan Rapinoe from kneeling for the anthem.
In a statement, the Spirit
indicated it did not want Rapinoe to hijack the evening's events.
Rapinoe took a
knee during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the Reign's game at the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, in "a little nod to" San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in
silent protest during the national anthem, and said she would do it at future matches.
In a statement, the Spirit acknowledged it was "an extraordinary step" and respected "every
individual’s right to express themselves" and described Rapinoe as "an amazing individual with a huge heart" but disagreed "with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to
draw attention to what is ultimately a personal -- albeit worthy -- cause.”
The complete Spirit statement:
"We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step,
but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise. "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.
"As a veteran owned team, the national anthem holds an exceptionally special meaning for
this organization. Our owner Bill Lynch has lost personal friends during overseas conflicts and has other close friends who have also lost loved ones. Playing the national anthem prior to sports
events became standard during World War II and was a way to express the team’s and fan’s patriotism and show support for the U.S. Military. The tradition of honoring our military and
our patriotism before our games is very important to us. We strongly feel that there are better ways to begin a conversation about a cause than tarnishing a tradition that is so important to so
many. "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. Professional athletes have incredible numbers of followers, to which we believe they have the ability to articulate a
conversation with objectives and plans and begin a serious conversation directly, or through traditional media appearances, without insulting our military and our fans. "We do regret that this decision has denied the players who had no intention of taking a knee their own opportunity to honor our great country from the field. This is
an issue we are communicating to and with them about personally."
One person not communicated to about the Spirit's plans was NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush, who was at the
game and told the
Washington Post's Steven Goff he was unaware of the Spirit’s plans to switch the schedule.
“I would have preferred to have had an honest dialogue of what we
wanted to do, what their goals were, and then work through it,” he said. “I don’t suggest I have all the answers, but it’s better to talk about it. I’m
The Spirit won, 2-1, on goals by Crystal Dunn -- her first of the season -- and Cheyna Williams. It would have clinched the regular-season title if
Portland had lost to Houston later in the evening. (The Thorns won, 3-0.)
Rapinoe entered the game in the 59th minute to chants of "Let her Kneel" from some of the Spirit fans.
tweeted that Rapinoe was shocked by Lynch's move.
“It’s f***ing unbelievable,” she said. “Saddened by it. “It
was incredibly distasteful, four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say I tried to hijack this event.”
NWSL, Week 17: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7 Washington 2
(Dunn 50+, Williams 62) Seattle 1 (Little 70). Att.: 3,039. Boston 2 (Simon 4, Dowie 51) WNY Flash 2 (McDonald 38, Williams 76). Att.: 1,435. Sky Blue FC 1 (Kerr 80) Orlando 1 (Morgan 23). Att.: 2,055. Chicago 2 (Press 13, Huerta 87) FC Kansas City 3 (Groom 7, 77, Silva 62). Att.:
2,068. Portland 3 (Long 25, 71, Sinclair 90) Houston 0. Att.: 13,752.
NWSL Standings PTS TEAM W-L-T GF/GA 39 Washington 12-3-3 29/16 35 Portland 10-3-5 29/16 29 WNY Flash 8-5-5 34/23 29 Chicago 8-5-5 21/19 ------------------------------------ 24 Seattle 6-6-6 24/19 23 Sky Blue FC 6-7-5 21/26 22 FC Kansas City 6-8-4 16/19 19 Orlando 6-11-1 18/26 19 Houston
5-9-4 23/25 11 Boston 3-13-2 13/39
Leading Scorers G PLAYER (TEAM) 9 Kealia Ohai (Houston) 9 Lynn Williams (WNY Flash) 8 Nadia Nadim (Portland) 8 Jessica McDonald (WNY Flash) 8 Shea Groom (FC Kansas City) 7 Christen Press
NWSL Schedule SATURDAY, SEPT. 10 Orlando vs. Sky Blue FC SUNDAY, SEPT. 11 FC Kansas
City vs. Chicago Houston vs. Boston Portland vs. WNY Flash Seattle vs. Washington SATURDAY, SEPT. 24 Orlando vs. FC Kansas City Boston vs. WNY Flash
Chicago vs. Washington Sky Blue FC vs. Portland Houston Dash vs. Seattle