A few FC Kansas City players joined in a nationwide demonstration against police brutality and racial inequality before Sunday evening’s match against the Reign in Seattle.
United States women’s national team players Becky Sauerbrunn and Sydney Leroux, joined by Desiree Scott and National Women’s Soccer League Players Association president Yael Averbuch, remained in the locker room for the national anthem.
An image posted on Twitter by SB Nation’s Seattle soccer blog, Ride of the Valkyries, showed that the Reign’s Megan Rapinoe was also absent from the field at Memorial Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 4,991.
FCKC players declined comment following the game, which the Blues won 1-0 on Shea Groom’s fifth goal of the year. The victory ended the fifth-ranked Reign’s chances at a spot in the league’s four-team playoffs.
“We are extremely proud of our players for their commitment to their craft and their community,” the club said in a statement. “We recognize and support their efforts to use their unique position to raise awareness of social issues in a positive manner.”
The Reign’s Laura Barnes, Diana Matheson, Elli Reed and Madalyn Schifflel also joined the protest.
In a Player’s Tribune post titled “Why I Kneel,” Rapinoe last year wrote, “I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street. But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache. …
“I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way.”
In February, the U.S. Soccer Federation passed a policy requiring players to “stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented.”
Rapinoe released a statement saying she would respect the Federation’s decision. She was left off the SheBelieves Cup roster but played in the Tournament of Nations and during the recent international break.
Rapinoe became the first active non-African American athlete to join the anthem protest last September before a match with the Reign, outlets reported. She knelt during a national team friendly against Thailand the following week and drew the Federation’s criticism for her decision.
Despite spending the majority of the season near the bottom of the standings, FC Kansas City (8-9-6) has surged in recent weeks and compiled a 4-1-1 record. The Blues return to Swope Soccer Village next week for their season finale against the Houston Dash on Oct. 1.