On Thursday night, Rapinoe, who has been playing for the USWNT since 2006, knelt during the national anthem. This was expected. On Sept. 4, Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem before her NWSL match for the Seattle Reign.
"It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he's standing for right now," Rapinoe said after that match. "I think it's actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn't ... Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties."
The Reign supported Rapinoe: "We recognize Megan's decision was offensive to some and a source of inspiration to others."
The Washington Freedom, Rapinoe's next opponent, did not, playing the national anthem before Rapinoe came out of the locker room on Sept. 7. "It's f***ing unbelievable," Rapinoe said afterwards.
On Thursday, during a 9-0 beatdown of Thailand in Columbus, U.S. Soccer panned Rapinoe's action in this statement released to ESPN:
"Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer's National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer. 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. As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the National Anthem is played."
Megan Rapinoe takes a knee for the national anthem in a US uniform. Unprecedented in international soccer history based on my research.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) September 16, 2016
Megan Rapinoe shows that white solidarity against police violence - which also affects white folks - is not complicated. You just do it.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) September 16, 2016
Did Megan Rapinoe kneel during the Thailand national anthem, a country with human trafficking issues? Because she did during the U.S. anthem
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) September 16, 2016
Rapinoe, 31, has 116 caps, is 18th on the USWNT with 31 career goals and 11th on the all-time assists list with 40. She has a World Cup title, a World Cup runner-up finish (making one of the most famous crosses in women's soccer history along the way) and an Olympic gold medal. In July, Rapinoe was named to the Rio Olympic roster just seven months after tearing her ACL for the third time in a December training session.
But Rapinoe is also one of five USWNT players, along with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo, to file a federal complaint charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination in March.
After Thursday's win, Rapinoe said to ESPN, "I'm very proud to pull on this shirt and play for this country, and also represent my country in a different way in speaking out for people that are oppressed."
Obviously, at the moment, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati does not feel the same way. This reaction from the U.S. Soccer Federation may come as a surprise, considering the USWNT has an especially young and liberal fan base, but the conflict also shows how touchy this subject is at the national-team level. Kaepernick, acting on his own for a San Francisco-based team he gets millions of dollars to play for, looks different to certain people than Rapinoe's kneel in a red, white and blue uniform paid for by a national governing body.
Rapinoe and the USWNT go back to work Sunday in Atlanta against the Netherlands. The squad has two more fall friendlies in October, both against Switzerland, in Sandy, Utah (outside Salt Lake City) and Minneapolis.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.