U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team – Biggest News Stories of 2016

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U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team – A look at news events in women’s soccer that dominated the headlines. Controversies and disputes.that occurred in 2016.

Here is a list of the biggest news stories of 2016 for the U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team. We will countdown the events that shaped this team in what has become a historical year.

Number 4 on our list…

Megan Rapinoe’s Kneeling Controversy!

This all began in August 2016 when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem during an NFL pre-game. Since then several others, including soccer player Megan Rapinoe have taken similar “kneel” in protest of the way certain minority groups have been treated in United States history.

Below is an article from CBS News on the matter at the early stages of the matter. And here is her direct quote on why Rapinoe was protesting. This article was from September 4, 2016.

"“It was very intentional,” Rapinoe told American Soccer Now after Seattle’s 2-2 tie in the National Women’s Soccer League game. “It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now. I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t. We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country. “Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”"

A few days later, Rapinoe’s club team, Seattle Reign FC would play the Washington Spirit at their home in the Maryland Soccerplex. Spirit owner, Bill Lynch, being a former veteran himself, opposed Rapinoe’s protest, and played the national anthem while both teams were in the locker room to deny Rapinoe her chance at protest.

See ‘Sources’ for  this Washington Post quote that Rapinoe made immediately after the game:

"“I didn’t hear it and I wasn’t exactly sure why it wasn’t played. It’s [expletive] unbelievable. Saddened by it. It’s pretty clear what the message is I am trying to bring to light in Chicago and what I continue to try to talk about the last few days. Clearly with [Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s] actions, it’s a necessary conversation. It was incredibly distasteful, four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say that I tried to hijack this event. … It’s just really disappointing and disrespectful. We want to talk about disrespect, and me disrespecting, he didn’t even give both teams a chance to even stand in front of it and show their respects. It’s unbelievable. It’s truly an unbelievable act to me.”"

Meanwhile, the Washington Spirit management issued this statement about the incident:

"“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.”"

The “discussion” between Rapinoe and Lynch also included her accusation that Lynch is homophobic:

"I do. Yeah, I do,” she said. “I have had conversations with Spirit players current and past, the fact that they don’t have a Pride Night. They have gay players like everyone else [in the league]. They’ve made it pretty clear, at least internally, that that’s not a game they are interested in, which is homophobic to me. I don’t know if it was directly at me because I’m gay and it’s a protest I am making as a gay woman. Bit of a stretch, but yeah I do think that Bill Lynch is homophobic.”"

In which Lynch denied:

"“She probably got lost in the moment and blurted something out. I certainly don’t agree with the statement, by any stretch.” Bill Lynch (Washington Spirit) Bill Lynch (Washington Spirit) He said sexual orientation has never been an issue in assembling the squad or staff. “We’re absolutely inclusive. Anyone claiming we’re not inclusive, it’s silly. [Sexuality] is not even something that gets discussed. We don’t make decisions based on race, gender or sexual preference. Unless someone is talking about it, I have no idea what their sexual preference is.”"

A couple days later, the Washington Spirit players themselves put out their own statement on the matter:

"Dear NWSL community, We are aware you have concerns over events surrounding our September 7 match against the Seattle Reign at the SoccerPlex that have shone a negative light on our organization and league. We want to share that in the last 48 hours we have met as a team, with coaches, and with ownership. While our primary job is to play soccer, we do not take social issues lightly and we care deeply about the growth and success of the NWSL. Our team is made up of diverse backgrounds and opinions. In fact, we believe this is a large part of why we have been so successful on the field this season. We come from many countries, ethnicities, and cultures. We proudly support and respect each other as individuals. We want to briefly respond as a team to the events surrounding our match against the Seattle Reign this past Wednesday. We respect our owner’s freedom to share his views and we understand his intentions. But as a team we don’t necessarily agree with those opinions or the actions taken on Wednesday evening. We believe in freedom of speech and expression as long as it’s respectfully demonstrated, even when we don’t agree on every issue. As a team, we were disappointed we were not informed of the plans for the national anthem or given an opportunity to weigh in on the decision. We regret that a historic accomplishment for the club was overshadowed by decisions that had nothing to do with the match. The chance to fully celebrate this achievement with our supporters and staff was taken from us. There are so many positive stories that should have been highlighted. It saddens us that these were lost in the moment. However, we want to assure our supporters that we remain solely focused on the same goal we had at the start of the season – winning an NWSL Championship. We have never wavered in our efforts to reach our goals. We are so proud to be in the position we are in and we are determined to succeed. We must thank our many supporters — especially the Spirit Squadron, who have our backs no matter what. We appreciate everything you have given us during the season. We would not be where we are without each of you. Together, let’s continue to focus on our ultimate goal – to bring a championship to Washington. We need you to continue to stand by the club. We truly want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. One way in which we can do that is to show that regardless of our personal views, we are united by our mutual respect for each other. Thank you for the tireless support…See you in the semifinals! – All of the players of the Washington Spirit"

The controversy did not end there. Her club, Seattle Reign FC,  was fine with Rapinoe’s decision to kneel in protest. It was her First Amendment right, and did not violate any policies associated with the club. However, Ms. Rapinoe technically is paid and works for the U.S. Soccer Federation.  So, when she wears a U.S. National Team uniform, she now represents her country. Would she continue the protests in defiance to the flag of her country and the uniform she wears when the United States would play Thailand in a”friendly” on September 16, 2016 ? The answer was “yes”.

The U.S.Soccer Federation released this statement following the game:

"In a statement Thursday night, U.S. Soccer said: “Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s National Team. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer. In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our Men’s and Women’s National Team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country. “As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the National Anthem is played.”"

Rapinoe was not called up for all ‘friendlies’ that occurred for the last couple months, so the issue has quieted down. However, as far as I know, Rapinoe plans to continue her protest when soccer resumes next year.

Where do you stand on this issue? Are you in favor of Rapinoe using her First Amendment rights in this manner? Or, do you think that she should stand during the National Anthem as she is representing her country, and protesting on “company time” is not guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution? Place your comments at the end of this article or press the “Comment” button at the top of this page.

Sources to above articles and quotes:

  1. This is  a link to the Kaepernick story. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem
  2. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-soccer-star-megan-rapinoe-kneels-during-national-anthem-colin-kaepernick/
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soccer-insider/wp/2016/09/07/megan-rapinoe-doesnt-get-chance-to-kneel-for-national-anthem-it-was-played-with-teams-in-locker-room/?utm_term=.888a654389bc
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soccer-insider/wp/2016/09/08/megan-rapinoe-responds-to-washington-spirit-playing-national-anthem-with-teams-in-locker-room/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.df562f272026
  5. http://www.mymcmedia.org/washington-spirit-release-statement-about-decision-to-play-national-anthem-ahead-of-schedule/
  6. http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/17490138/megan-rapinoe-plan-nixed-washington-spirit-move-national-anthem-up:
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soccer-insider/wp/2016/09/08/megan-rapinoe-says-spirit-owner-is-homophobic-spirit-owner-responds/?utm_term=.c203673ce328
  8. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/soccer/2016/09/15/megan-rapinoe-national-anthem-protest-us-friendly-thailand/90438652/
  9. Here is another article where she was interviewed in October 2016. http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/10/12/megan-rapinoe-is-kneeling-like-kaepernick-because-its-our-responsibility-too/

This is the end of this section on Megan Rapinoe. However, there is still more!  To continue reading, please press  the “Next” button below, or you may navigate using the “Next” or “Prev” buttons at the top of this article.