What next for Rapinoe protest?

Not another 1,000-word essay, but too complicated for 140 characters on Twitter …

The Spirit game this weekend at Seattle will surely be interesting. But I think all eyes are going to be on Columbus on Thursday, when the USWNT plays Thailand.

I have to distinguish between two sentiments here:

Personally, I would have no issue with Rapinoe or her teammates taking a knee during the anthem. And if I were covering the game, I’d happily ask her afterwards if she feels she’s making any progress getting the country to learn and talk more about race.

Pragmatically, I fear the worst if Rapinoe kneels during the anthem. We have to recognize that some people are offended by protests during the anthem, whether we agree with them or not. To do so while wearing a U.S. uniform raises issues that don’t exist when she’s representing the Seattle Reign. It’s like arguing within a family vs. arguing about your family in front of other people. I know plenty of people in the non-Twitterverse — including many who would otherwise sympathize with everything Megan Rapinoe says — who would have a serious problem with protesting during the anthem while repping the country.

Again (repeating because I feel people really want to focus on the parts with which they disagree, which is actually an extreme example of what I talked about in last night’s post), I have to stress that I personally would not be offended. Though it’s not a First Amendment issue (the Constitution does not guarantee employment), I think the free expression of kneeling outweighs the symbolism of the national anthem. (Which, in my eyes, is not a memorial to fallen veterans, and I think it’s a stretch for Bill Lynch to construe it as such.)

But pragmatically, would kneeling during the anthem at a USWNT game further Rapinoe’s cause of trying to open a discussion of race relations? That discussion has been … well, hijacked. What’s the next step forward? Bow in prayer as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did?

I’m open to being convinced that it would work. Maybe she would be like Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics — vilified at the time but now seen as taking a heroic stand.

I’m skeptical. But I’m ready to listen.

I know some people would say, “Damn the consequences! Speak and act as you see fit!” But that’s what Bill Lynch did Wednesday, and I don’t think it did any good at all. PR consultants may get a bad rap, but sometimes, we need to listen to them.

 

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3 thoughts on “What next for Rapinoe protest?”

  1. Personally, I think protesting while wearing the red, white, and blue is the epitome of expression of what the freedom represented by the flag means. If she were protesting against the USA, which she is not, then that would be a different story. I think it’s incumbent upon her to better articulate the difference and to keep steering the questions she gets back to the original subject, the inequities. I also think the media could do a better job in that regard. .

  2. I personally agree with the issues that she is attempting to bring up. There are deep issues of race relations, and LGBT issues that need to be worked on here. I also like that she is supporting another athlete that who is trying to bring those issues to light, assuring that he did not have to “stand” alone.

    Like you Beau, It does not offend me when someone protests during the anthem. I also do not immediately think of the anthem as a memorial to veterans. I say that having buried my father at Arlington National Cemetary 2 weeks ago. Personally, I always take the time of the anthem to think of the good things that being American affords to us. I do have thoughts during that time of gratitude to veterans, but it is not the only thing.

    All of that said I have strong problems with hypocrisy. Whether I agree with Bill Lynch or not, in this case not, I keep coming back to people saying he has no right to do what he did. That he has no right to express his opinion. Perhaps he expressed his opinion in a heavy handed way, but it isn’t like he could have taken a knee to counter Rapinoe taking hers. It also reminds me of the great many WoSo journalists to spent time scoffing at Hope Solo’s lawyer’s statement that her firing from the USWNT violated her first amendment rights. The 1st amendment only protects from government restrictions they made sure to mention. Yet in this instance the same journalists complain that Rapinoe’s rights were violated. And that simply isn’t true. She has no more rights than Solo did in this case. (Yes I get that the Reign are her employer and are fine with her protest, but Bill Lynch isn’t the government). After Rapinoe’s comments that Lynch is a homophobe, there were comments that Lynch is a racist. On ESPN Sportscenter Michael Smith said that anyone who says they think kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to veterans is really just a racist, and that he would rather they just say so instead of hiding behind the anthem. As I said I don’t think kneeling is disrespecting that anthem, and I do not think of the flag that way. But that doesn’t mean that there are not people out there who don’t feel that way about the flag that are not racists. Or comments that Lynch doesn’t speak for all veterans. That isn’t the point, he is speaking for himself as a veteran. He is expressing his feelings on the anthem. I don’t agree but that doesn’t mean he is a racist, or a homophobe.

    People complain that he should not impose his will on her protest, but I can’t fathom the reaction if he refused to impose his will on other protests that could happen. For instance, what if the Westboro Baptist Church decided to purchase tickets to a Reign game. If they bought a block of seats together and brought their horrible signs of hatred, God Hates.. Your going to burn.. Gay marriage is a sin, etc. That Chuch protests anywhere they believe the can get eyeballs. Rapinoe is a high profile gay athlete, and her protest is drawing larger publications to games. It is exactly the type of thing that those vile people would do. Given that situation I know that the majority of WoSo fans specifically and most moral people would expect an NWSL team, the team owner, and the NWSL to prevent them from protesting. There would be no discussion of the right to free speech. The discussion would be private property, private game, etc. I do not say this to equate Rapinoe’s protest to them in any way. I would want them thrown out of the game. I am saying it is always convenient to talk about free speech when you agree with the speech.

    Reading the garbage that goes around in the Equalizer forum I realize that there are more people that I do not agree with that are WoSo fans than I would have ever imagined. The number of fans, I don’t mean one off comments on a Solo article, but people who comment on a daily basis and discuss tactics or games, but fans who complain about lesbians, or the notion of equal pay being ridiculous because WoSo sucks compared to BroSo, or how hot so and so is. It is unbelievable.

    Which leads me to my personal issue that I don’t think many agree with. I hate the idea of a sports player’s platform. Well not the platform exactly, but what they are saying is their platform. To me athletes who have earned some amount of fame do have a platform. They have contacts with journalists, they have fame, people out there often want to hear what an athlete has to say. But before, during or after a game, is not that player’s platform to me. A player does not inherently have the right to use the television time paid for by a league or team to expound on their views. Of course leagues and teams often force players to sit with media after a game, so in that case I suppose if the player only wants to talk about a social issue, or their new record album, the league gets what they get. But to me that tv time is not a right that was earned by playing well. If the athlete wants to give an interview or speech in the parking lot, or invite a reporter to their home, then that is the player’s platform to me. And I hope all athletes make the time to address important issues with the platform that fame has given them. In fact I mean that for actresses, or singers, etc. Do something good with the openings that you have been provided. I just can’t get behind the idea of game tv time is theirs. Imagine if actors decided use their platform during a movie scene to talk about the environment. Or if you paid $200 to see the Rolling Stones, and they came out and spent 2 hours talking about the plight of the polar bear. I think some people would be pissed.

    But I suppose it is just me, I am old, and you know, get off my lawn.

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