By Ken Reed
America was built by bold people looking for a better life — for themselves and their brothers and sisters.
That’s all U.S. women’s national team soccer player Megan Rapinoe is doing.
She’s simply asking that we, as a country, live up to the last three words of the Pledge or Allegiance: “justice for all.”
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” says Rapinoe.
Rapinoe is a long-time member of the American women’s soccer team. Together with her teammates, she has fought hard for equitable treatment (pay, training facilities, travel, etc.) from U.S. Soccer relative to the American men’s soccer team. In fact, she has fought for a variety of minority rights causes throughout her career.
At her essence, Megan Rapinoe is a fighter. On and off the field. There are a lot of Americans out there who call themselves “patriots” but haven’t done a sliver of the work Rapinoe has done to make this country a better place to live … for everyone.
“I believe we should always value the use of our voice and platform to fight for equality of every kind,” says Rapinoe.
She kneeled during the national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and other injustices toward African Americans. Then U.S. Soccer created a policy that said she had to stand up for the anthem. Now she stands but doesn’t sing or put her hand over her heart.
Rapinoe’s silent national anthem protests have caused a lot of people, including President Donald Trump to be upset.
In a way, I get it. The anthem triggers a lot of powerful emotions in people, including me.
Part of the problem is, the American flag and national anthem stand for different things for different people. In my mind, the national anthem is primarily a song that represents the freedoms we have in this country, and honors all those who have fought to retain those freedoms through the years. Most notable among those freedoms are the ones granted within the First Amendment.
The First Amendment allows us — all of us — to freely express our opinions on a wide variety of topics and issues.
When I see someone protesting social injustice like Rapinoe, I believe it’s an example of the Great American Experiment working at its best. To me, the First Amendment is the primary thing that makes America America. People have died on battlefields to protect the First Amendment rights of Rapinoe — and those of the rest of us.
Yet, many people aren’t interested in Rapinoe’s rights. They want Rapinoe to shut up and play soccer because what she says and does makes them feel uncomfortable. Well, making people uncomfortable about social injustice in this country is the goal.
You may completely disagree with everything Rapinoe says or stands for. That’s fine. But here’s the key: Every American’s First Amendment rights must be protected, not just those of people whose views we agree with.
“One of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s points is that it’s an honor and a privilege to play for this country, and it is,” says Rapinoe. “But we also represent the entire country, and the idea of liberty and justice isn’t afforded to everyone.”
Until it is, Megan Rapinoe will keep fighting. And I for one say bravo!
“If we’re still having the argument ‘Is there racism? Is there sexism?’ — those things exist. We know they exist,” says Rapinoe.
“Insofar as we argue whether they exist, we’re wasting time on the issue. I just wish we would just confront them more honestly, so we can get onto the solutions.”
Me too. If, as a country, we spent just half the time working on social justice for all, as we do on what athletes do or don’t do during the national anthem, we’d be much further along to actually living up to the ideals in our Pledge of Allegiance.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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