Washington Spirit, a team in America's National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) have taken the unprecedented step of playing the American national anthem ahead of their game with Seattle Reign, before the teams left their dressing rooms.
The move comes off the back of Seattle's Megan Rapinoe, kneeling during the national anthem before a game last week against the Chicago Red Stars. The World Cup winner claimed the moved was a "little nod" to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem ahead of the 49ers' pre-season matches in recent weeks. He claims the stance was because he refuses to "show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour."
In a statement released by the Spirit, they claimed the anthem was played early, due to Rapinoe's "disrespect".
"In light of Seattle Reign and U.S. Women’s National Team member Megan Rapinoe’s public declaration that she intended to ‘take a knee’ during the United States’ National Anthem tonight, we decided to play the anthem in our stadium ahead of schedule rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent".
— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) September 7, 2016
Rapinoe claimed the anthem was moved, due to the actions of Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch, whom she claims is "homophobic".
Rapinoe on Spirit's perceived lack of solidarity with gay community, whether that had anything to do with tonight pic.twitter.com/yNAGwAsA7W
— Caitlin Buckley (@caitlinbuckley2) September 8, 2016
Kaepernick and the 49ers begin their NFL campaign late on Monday night at home to the LA Rams. He will be expected to continue his protest against the anthem.