NWSL owner thwarts perceived Rapinoe 'hijacking'

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 disappointed.”

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.

Goff 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:
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
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
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 (Chicago)

NWSL Schedule
Orlando vs. Sky Blue FC
FC Kansas City vs. Chicago
Houston vs. Boston
Portland vs. WNY Flash
Seattle vs. Washington
Orlando vs. FC Kansas City
Boston vs. WNY Flash
Chicago vs. Washington
Sky Blue FC vs. Portland
Houston Dash vs. Seattle

24 comments about "NWSL owner thwarts perceived Rapinoe 'hijacking'".
  1. StrikerBob Norman, September 8, 2016 at 8:17 a.m.

    Well said, Bill Lynch! Rapinoe's f-bomb reveals just what a classless mindset she has. Her language is vulgar and her actions do nothing for the cause of racial harmony, but simply are a pat on the back to herself for being cool in today's very uncool world of the self-centered athlete. Has she gotten her pair of pig socks yet?

  2. Terry Lynch, September 8, 2016 at 8:32 a.m.

    Well said. I wish Bill was a relative of mine but I don't think he is.

  3. Mike Calcaterra, September 8, 2016 at 9:20 a.m.

    Rapinoe showed her class when she shoved Hope Solo into the oncoming train. I wonder if spineless Sunil Gulati will giver her a 6 month suspension for disrespecting the USA.

  4. Cheryl Gregory, September 8, 2016 at 10:20 a.m.

    I'm a 4 year STH. I was there last night. It was DISGRACEFUL!

    No written statement was given to the fans. No announcement over the PA or on the field by the owner.

    Just a "drive-by" playing of a NA recording on the "down-low" while teams were off the pitch and while fans were mostly in line buying food or drinks or merch or trying to get into the bathroom.

    I was in line myself--didn't hear an announcement to stand and remove cover. Didn't hear or see an honor guard. Had to ask the vendor to stop selling.

    THIS honored military veterans? The flag? The nation?

    No, it DIDN'T. It was petty and small and dishonorable.

    Rapinoe put her views out there in public and has answered every question.

    Lynch lobbed a cherry bomb into a crowd and ran away.

  5. Margaret Manning replied, September 8, 2016 at 12:57 p.m.

    Molehill, meet mountain.

  6. John Mcdermott, September 8, 2016 at 10:27 a.m.

    Let's stop playing the national anthem before every sports event in the USA and instead keep for occasions where it actually means something. It should be for international matches and Olympic medal-giving ceremonies and nothing else. I am sick of all this obligatory patriotism, something I don't have to prove to anyone just because I am attending a sports event. The owner of this team sounds like a jerk. I wonder if he closes the refreshment stands during the anthem? By the way, how many people actually buy tickets to see these games. Every time I see a picture the stands look empty.

  7. beautiful game replied, September 8, 2016 at 10:58 a.m.

    Well put JM. Reality for some is an illusion.

  8. Al Gebra replied, September 8, 2016 at 11:12 a.m.

    Well said Mcdermott. I would like to ask Mr. Lynch: "What did you yourself do in the war daddy besides letting the government send soldiers to another senseless war to die." This kneeling episode further exposes the hypocrisy of the the American flag wavers. I am a former Vietnam combat unit commander and am 100% disabled with the VA (a great organization). I'd like to have some of these blind flag wavers go to a VA hospital sometime and witness firsthand some of what the kneelers are protesting

  9. Margaret Manning replied, September 8, 2016 at 12:58 p.m.

    The kneelers are protesting veterans' injuries?

  10. Ric Fonseca replied, September 8, 2016 at 1:48 p.m.

    Ok, people, except for a few writers, please raise your hand if you served in the military, whether you were drafted (when there was a mandatory draft) or volunteered (like I did), and how many of you have thanked a veteran or someone in uniform for their service? Then talk to us about patriotism.

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, September 10, 2016 at 11:07 a.m.

    I am a vet as well as my father, three uncles and my son. All volunteers. My father, an uncle, and my son served overseas during wartime. We don't have to thank each other for our service. Vets, drafted or volunteer, tend to share a different attitude about things, but we don't have an exclusive franchise on patriotism.

  12. John Mcdermott, September 8, 2016 at 10:29 a.m.

    p.s.-somebody said Rapinoe shoved Hope Solo under a train. Solo jumped in front of it all by herself...over and over again. Fair or not, overreaction or not, vindictive and cowardly on the part of US Soccer, or not, his time the train kept going.

  13. Paul Cox, September 8, 2016 at 11 a.m.

    What a jackass.

    "We didn't want her message to be a big deal, so we're putting out a press release about it."

    Talk about backfiring...

    The people who say "she shouldn't be part of the national team" or "she should stand up!" are completely unAmerican.

    Why do we put on this nationalistic display before a sporting event anyway? Why must everyone blindly obey? Sure, she has a right to make her statement. Sure, people have a right to disagree with her. But to suggest that she should be forced to conform is ridiculous.

  14. Margaret Manning, September 8, 2016 at 11:28 a.m.

    All this ruckus over what is, in truth, a meaningless gesture. Wholly outside the soccer game, for which she is paid, Rapinoe has quite the platform to express her support (for what, in particular, would be worth hearing-as it stands now, she's expressed support for Kapernick). What is Rapinoe doing to address the issues she is purportedly highlighting? I have the same question for Kapernick. Symbolic gestures alone are empty, as meaningful as the flag pin controversy. That said, I think that the front office has the right to do whatever it pleases in terms of the event. The entire discussion here about who's a better veteran is beside the point. (How does Rapinoe's kneeling relate to veterans? I thought it was relating to BLM?)

  15. Gordon Holt, September 8, 2016 at 11:35 a.m.

    John Mcdermott nailed it. The ol' anthem has become such a cliche. Someone sticks a tape in the slot and pushes "play," the players stand dumb-faced and silent without so much as a hand over their hearts as is the case among the fans, most of whom (if they're male) even fail to doff their hats. They can't because they're already stuffing their faces. And then, too many bars from the end, some bozo starts screaming. If that hasn't long been a scene of disrespect, I don't know what else to call it. What a hollow, cheap beginning to a sports event. Better the announcer simply greet the fans, bring out the players, and let the ref push "play."

  16. Margaret Manning replied, September 8, 2016 at 1:01 p.m.

    I disagree. I sat out numerous anthems during Vietnam, but warmed to the anthem at soccer games decades later. My experience has been that it's a carefully observed ritual or tradition, with most fans in the stadium singing along, and it's especially so in international competition.

  17. Bill Wilson, September 8, 2016 at 11:48 a.m.

    The fact that we are able to have these absurd anthem protests and games being played by owners to thwart these expressions of so-called solidarity demonstrates,yet again, how lucky we are to have the luxury to engage in this foolishness. Many in the rest of the world spend their time worrying about putting food on the table and and trying to avoid getting killed. Not us....we are "exceptional".

  18. Rusty Welch, September 8, 2016 at 11:58 a.m.

    Wow guys, bash America much? Get your self-entitled 15 minutes yet? The anthem and the flag are symbols - symbols that represent the freedom and liberty that we get to enjoy as part of this great nation. You are free in this country to bury your head in the sand and disrespect that - just as the owner is free to try and not allow that disrespect. Try your protest in a large portion of the rest of the world, and check the reaction. We ARE very tolerant in this country, but freedom does not equate to entitlement. You have no 'right' to force others into supporting your actions. It is unbelievably ironic that these empty-headed sports figures have chosen to protest the symbols of our freedom, rather than do anything to make a difference. Newsflash for the young - bumper-sticker politicking never solved a single problem. Working together solves problems, not being divisive and offensive.

  19. John Mcdermott, September 8, 2016 at 12:30 p.m.

    What does playing a national anthem have to do with a soccer game, or a high school football game or a little league baseball, or the Super Bowl for that matter? It's "a tradition". So what? So was saying the Lord's Prayer in public schools until we figured out it wasn't really the appropriate place for such a thing. I served five years as a officer in the Navy, including a year in Vietnam. I don't like being manipulated and just don't like having to listen to the gratuitous playing of The Star Spangled Banner every time I go to a game. That doesn't mean I am unpatriotic. As someone else suggested here, sometimes the flag wavers with the loudest voices are the very ones who have actually never served at all, never done anything "for the country". What is really absurd, to me, is watching the MLS players line up and stand at attention for the anthem and realizing how few are actually citizens of the USA. What's the point then, other than being another example of how MLS strives to conform to the NFL template of how things are done?

  20. David Huff, September 8, 2016 at 2:38 p.m.

    Megan shouldnt protest too loudly, she had already indicated that she would be taking a knee in future games and there was no advance indication that she would be willing to make an exception for "four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country" in connection with 9/11 observances. The owner did the right thing on behalf of service members and victims of terrorism on a play date that was extremely close to the anniversary of the 21st Century's version of Pearl Harbor. Rapinoe's opportunity for her five minutes of notoriety has been merely deferred to a future play date of lesser consequence.

  21. Bob Ashpole, September 9, 2016 at 3:34 a.m.

    I liked this forum better when it is discussing soccer.

  22. Sara P, September 9, 2016 at 10:12 a.m.

    Exactly, Bob! Now we've got WTC conspiracy rants?

  23. David Huff, September 9, 2016 at 2:58 p.m.

    Looks like we have an "Un-American" troll here, expressing 9/11 fantasies, domesticated animals, etc. : )

  24. John Hofmann, September 9, 2016 at 7:29 p.m.

    To clarify, I am a strong soccer fan. That being said, it is often amazing, or perhaps more disheartening, to see the huge numbers of (often) really strongly felt positions on what are pretty much extremely minor issues such as this, given the big picture and huge number of significant issues facing all of us in this country at this time. That being said, as an elderly 'progressive' who over time has become increasingly proud of the fact that I spent three years in the military back when it was a required obligation, I do have a related question, only because it is somewhat related to the current subject: are there any other people out there that are disturbed (I definitely am) about what seems to be an increasing tendency for fans at sporting events to treat the national anthem as entertainment rather than as a somber few moments to reflect on our freedoms, or whatever else a person might wish to be thankful for? Especially telling to me is the use of well-known entertainers to provide stylized renditions, and for crowds to interrupt what to me should be a few moments of respect with cheers, etc., over the hitting of high notes, trills, etc.?

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