If Megan Rapinoe had planned to take a knee during the national anthem in her Wednesday night game against the Washington Spirit, the owner of that women's soccer team effectively squelched that plan. Per the Washington Post, Spirit owner Bill Lynch, an Air Force veteran, made sure the anthem was played at Maryland SoccerPlex only after his team and Rapinoe's Seattle Reign FC headed to the locker room after warmups, a preemptive strike against Rapinoe's anticipated repeat of her protest at a Sunday night game (a show of support for the 49ers' QB Colin Kaepernick). "We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step, but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise," the Spirit said in a statement, referencing its last regular-season home game that could help earn it a first-place slot.
The statement went on to say that although Rapinoe is "an amazing individual with a huge heart," the Spirit didn't want her "hijacking" the game for her "personal—albeit worthy—cause," nor to "subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent." Rapinoe, for her part, said after the game she was "saddened" by the song subterfuge and called it "f---ing unbelievable" and "incredibly distasteful, four days before [the anniversary of] one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say I tried to hijack this event." One other person not aware in advance of the Spirit's plans, per the Post: National Women's Soccer League Commissioner Jeff Plush, who says he was "disappointed" by Lynch's move. Meanwhile, Rapinoe's team issued its own statement that said it will "continue to encourage" its players to take part in any pre-game ceremonies, but that they're free to do so "in a manner consistent with their personal beliefs." (More Rapinoe reaction in the Post.)