Soccer player Megan Rapinoe kneels as 'nod to Kaepernick'

Kate Markgraf, Megan Rapinoe's teammate on the USWNT from 2006-10, says she isn't surprised by Rapinoe's decision to kneel during the national anthem and thinks it won't be an issue for U.S. soccer.

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NFL players are no longer the only professional athletes to silently protest during the national anthem.

On Sunday night, women's soccer player Megan Rapinoe followed the example of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by taking a knee during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before her Seattle Reign played the Chicago Red Stars in an NWSL game.

After the game, a 2-2 draw, Rapinoe told John D. Halloran of American Soccer Now that her action was "a nod to Kaepernick."

"I am disgusted with the way he has been treated and the fans and hatred he has received in all of this," Rapinoe told espnW's Julie Foudy. "It is overtly racist: 'Stay in your place, black man.' Just didn't feel right to me. We need a more substantive conversation around race relations and the way people of color are treated."

"We are not saying we are not one the greatest countries in world," she added. "Just need to accept that [it is] not perfect, things are broken.

"And quite honestly, being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven't had my liberties protected, so I can absolutely sympathize with that feeling."

Rapinoe said she would continue to kneel in every match going forward.

"The very least that I can do is continue the conversation with him by kneeling for the anthem," she said. 

The Reign issued a statement on Wednesday that said in part, "We will continue to encourage all Reign FC players to participate in the pre-match ceremony, which honors those who have served and made sacrifices on our behalf.

"We will also continue to allow players to participate in the pre-match ceremony in a manner consistent with their personal beliefs, reflecting our respect for the rights earned and defended by those fighting for our nation. And we will continue to support Megan in her efforts to make a positive impact on our country, encouraging her to do so in a way that provokes needed conversation about serious issues, in a manner consistent with the values of our organization."

On Tuesday, Rapinoe told Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic that her joining in protest has been fairly well-received.

"I felt like it was the right thing to do. I think it was the right time to do that," Rapinoe said Tuesday. "I've talked to people who are equally inspired and outraged, and I welcome both of those conversations and think that they are both incredibly important. I think overall, it's been positive."

Rapinoe, a World Cup and gold-medal winner with the U.S. women's national team, becomes the first nonblack professional athlete to join in protesting during the national anthem since Kaepernick gained notoriety for sitting out the anthem during the 49ers' preseason games.

Since coming out in 2012, Rapinoe has been a devoted advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and has worked with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and other organizations.

Rapinoe also has been vocal about pay equity. She was among five national team players who lent their names to a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wage discrimination. The players say that members of the team make in some cases up to four times less than their male national team counterparts.

She has frequently spoken out on Twitter, delving into politics and even calling out the NWSL when a match was played on an extremely narrow field earlier this summer.

AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe, right, seen here playing for the U.S. women's national team, took a knee during the national anthem of Sunday's NWSL match against the Chicago Red Stars as a nod of support for Colin Kaepernick.

After sitting during the playing of the anthem during preseason games, Kaepernick elected to kneel during the anthem for the team's final preseason game on Thursday and was joined by teammate Eric Reid.

In a separate game on Thursday, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane also elected to sit down during the playing of the national anthem.

Though he has received backlash for his protest, Kaepernick has said it's not his intention to denigrate police, military or the country, but rather, it serves as his way of bringing attention to what he sees are failings in the United States' treatment of racial minorities.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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