• World Cup winner says gesture was ‘very intentional’
  • Rapinoe says it is important for white and black athletes to stand together

Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice in the US appears to be slowly spreading with the soccer international Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the national anthem before Seattle Reign’s NWSL game against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.

Kaepernick’s protest first came to prominence last week, and has sparked debate across America. His latest refusal to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner came on Thursday when his team, the San Francisco 49ers, played the San Diego Chargers. He was joined by his team-mate Eric Reid.

Why is Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem?
On Sunday, Rapinoe said her gesture was a nod towards Kaepernick. “It was very intentional,” Rapinoe told American Soccer Now after the game. “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 and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t. We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”

Rapinoe is one of USA’s most talented players, and helped her team to gold at the 2012 Olympics as well as victory at the 2015 World Cup. She has long been known to speak her mind and is an ambassador for Athlete Ally, a charity that combats homophobia in sports.

Kaepernick has received criticism and support for his protest with some saying it is disrespectful to the military, with others insisting his stand represents the freedom of Americans to express themselves. On Thursday, the quarterback pledged to donate $1m to community projects as part of his drive towards equality.