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FRANCE 2019: US SKIPPER, RAPINOE REBELS AGAINST AMERICAN ANTHEM

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The US team may be making waves at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, but the skipper of the team, Megan Rapinoe has vowed never to sing the American anthem.

US set a new goal record at the 28-year old competition after beating Thailand 13-0 on Tuesday. The skipper of the side who also scored goal number nine to bring her haul to 46 in 155 international appearances does not sing the national anthem or put her hand over her chest when the anthem is rendered at matches involving the team.

Alex Morgan of the USA celebrates with teammate and captain, Megan Rapinoe who no longer believe in the American national anthem

According to an American publication, Aol.com, she probably never will sing the anthem again. At matches, the skipper’s unflinching face and pursed lips have become object of stories.

The 33-year-old winger explained them at length in an feature news by Yahoo Sports last month.

For Rapinoe, the anthem is a “somber moment” for a “peaceful protest” of inequality and injustice throughout the United States.

It’s inequality and injustice she has been aware of for years now, even as she proudly sang the anthem prior to the summer of 2016. But that summer, she had what she calls an “awakening.” She was “very much inspired” by Colin Kaepernick and his protest of racial injustice and police brutality.

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Around that time, “the whole meaning of the anthem changed dramatically for me,” Rapinoe told Yahoo Sports. And she came to a realization: “I need to do something.”

So, days after Kaepernick first dropped to a knee, Rapinoe did as well.

After she knelt during the anthem at a national team game for the first time, U.S. Soccer released a statement condemning her actions. The statement called the playing of the anthem “an opportunity … to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country.”

But Rapinoe’s point is precisely that we don’t all appreciate those freedoms. Many minorities and members of marginalized groups don’t.

As she wrote weeks after she first knelt, her protest was about “over-policing” and “racial profiling,” about “ensur[ing] that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country.”

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Her choice to not sing the anthem is essentially an extension of that. U.S. Soccer eventually adopted a rule prohibiting players from kneeling before national team games. Rapinoe, who calls the rule “cowardly” and “backwards,” now clasps her hands behind her back and stares straight ahead, expressionless, instead.

“I haven’t experienced police brutality, or racism, in that way,” she told Yahoo Sports of the inspiration for her protests. “But knowing that it obviously happens, and knowing that it’s a very real thing, and that there’s something I can do to lend to that movement, or lend to those voices, or to support them, that’s important. You don’t have to understand everything fully in a personal way. That’s impossible. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing. It doesn’t mean that you can’t believe what people are saying.”

Rapinoe believes them, and believes many problems at the crux of Kaepernick’s protest remain unsolved. Which is why she no longer sings.

Back in October, during our first interview for the feature, I asked her what, if anything, could compel her to sing again.

“It would take a lot,” she responded. “It would take criminal justice reform. It would take the huge inequality gap that we have to be much better. It would take a lot of progress in LGBTQ rights. We just have such a disparity in this country in so many different ways, inequality in so many different ways.”

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And that is why, as she told Yahoo Sports: “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart. I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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