In recent years, when a black athlete takes a political stance they’re typically met with some variation of “shut up and dribble,” from media pundits and pressed white fans. It’s understandable that American soccer player Crystal Dunn had complicated emotions when her teammate Megan Rapinoe decided to kneel.
Dunn said she had a fear that it “would look differently if a black girl on the team kneels,” according to NBC News. On Tuesday, Dunn participated in a roundtable with Bleacher Report discussing racism in soccer. During the roundtable, Dunn recounted when Rapinoe first told her that she was going to kneel. “I remember our conversation when she came up to me and said, ‘Crys, I’m thinking of kneeling,’ And I remember being, just filled with so much joy for her wanting to fight a cause like that, because in my opinion at that time, I was like, ‘you have nothing to do with this.’ That’s ignorant on my part, thinking that off the bat, but I was so moved that she wanted to fight for this cause.” Dunn told Bleacher Report.
In 2016, Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem before a match between the Chicago Red Stars and Seattle Reign FC. After the game, she explained to American Soccer Now why she decided to kneel. “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. Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.” Rapinoe told American Soccer Now after the game.
Similar to Kaepernick, Rapinoe faced backlash for kneeling during the anthem. The U.S Soccer Federation released a statement saying that players should “stand and honor our flag while the National Anthem” is played. “Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s National Team. 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. “ the statement went on to say.
From NBC News:
Dunn also recalls how “internally conflicted” she was about whether she should kneel and became even more “torn” after she saw the criticism Rapinoe received for kneeling.
“I remember telling her that, ‘I have to stand, dude, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dunn told Bleacher Report. “I saw the way U.S. Soccer responded and treated Megan. The kept her out of some games, kept her out of camps, and I was like, ‘yes that’s bad,’ but to me, I was thinking ‘they could rip up my contract.’ So I thought I was actually going to get it much worse. And I remember telling her, it hurts me to my core that I’m going to to stand, but I’m supportive.”
Dunn’s concerns aren’t unfounded as Kaepernick was dropped from his team and blacklisted from the NFL for the last four years. Similar to the NFL, the U.S Soccer Federation has recently done an about face on its stance surrounding kneeling in the wake of the nationwide protests that have gripped the nation.