Megan Rapinoe knelt for “The Star Spangled Banner” Thursday night after standing for Thailand’s national anthem.
“It’s my First Amendment Right to peacefully protest,” the U.S. women’s soccer player says of her right to represent the United States in international play while kneeling during the country’s national anthem. “I think I’m well within the bounds of that.”
Thailand, the country whose anthem Rapinoe respectfully stood for, offers no First Amendment protections to its people. Rather than a vote electing officeholders, a coup elevated a junta. Last year, the rulers cancelled 60 events and conferences, shut down three television stations, and blocked numerous websites, including the online presence of Human Rights Watch, which brings us this information but not the people of Thailand because the government of Thailand bans it.
Since the 2014 coup, the Orwellian National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) ruling party has prosecuted 56 cases of insulting the monarchy. The offense extends to posting a “like” on another’s Facebook page. The ruling party arrested 27 people for sedition for merely criticizing it.
“The NCPO has banned political gatherings of more than five persons,” Human Rights Watch points out. “Since the coup, at least 80 people have been arrested and sent to military courts for organizing or taking part in peaceful public gatherings.”
But we can’t expect Megan Rapinoe, who doesn’t really get her own country, to understand one halfway round the soccer-ball-shaped world. Did someone forget to tell her about the lack of state recognition for gay marriage in Thailand before their anthem played?
America, as the song says, may be the home of the brave. But it’s not terribly brave to protest America. It’s chic, fashionable, de rigueur.
And this trendiness characterized Rapinoe’s platitudinous explanation to ESPN regarding her disrespect for her country as girls in youth soccer gear looked on from the field and a woman in uniform belted away at the national anthem. Far bigger than sports, blah, blah, blah, social justice, blah, blah, blah, be an ally in this space, blah, blah, blah, use my platform, blah, blah, blah, break down some of these prejudices, blah, blah, blah, use my voice to raise awareness, blah, blah, blah, break down some of these injustices, blah, blah, blah, speaking out for people who are oppressed.
There’s something self-refuting in repeatedly kneeling for a national anthem. Any country so horrible that it rates its citizens sitting for its anthem undoubtedly does not allow its citizens to sit for its anthem. Any country so tolerant that its citizens sit for its anthem without consequence probably does not rate its citizens sitting for its anthem.