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/ Source: TODAY
By Drew Weisholtz

The United States women's national soccer team continues its quest to defend its World Cup title, while one of its biggest stars continues to take a stand.

Co-captain Megan Rapinoe is not participating in the national anthem.

While her teammates held their hands over their hearts and sang along as the anthem played prior to the team's 13-0 thrashing over Thailand last week, Rapinoe stared ahead, with her hands at her side, lips not moving.

Rapinoe, 33, also stood by during the anthem prior to the team's 3-0 win over Chile on Sunday.

She has not taken part in the anthem since 2016 and explained her decision in an essay she wrote for The Players’ Tribune that same year.

United States women's national soccer team member Megan Rapinoe stands while the national anthem plays before the team's 3-0 victory over Chile on June 16, 2019.Getty Images

“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street,” she wrote. “But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache.

“There is no perfect way to protest. I know that nothing I do will take away the pain of those families. But I feel in my heart it is right to continue to kneel during the national anthem, and I will do whatever I can to be part of the solution.”

Rapinoe is fully aware that her actions may not sit well with everyone, but she says she is doing what she feels is right to help those most in need of having their liberty protected.

Megan Rapinoe kneels during the national anthem before the United States women's national soccer team played the Netherlands at in Atlanta on September 18, 2016.Getty Images

“I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way,” she wrote. “When I take a knee, I am facing the flag with my full body, staring straight into the heart of our country’s ultimate symbol of freedom — because I believe it is my responsibility, just as it is yours, to ensure that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country.”

Not surprisingly, Rapinoe's activism has ruffled some feathers.

“So that Megan Rapinoe lady wants to pull a Colin Kaepernik? That’s it for Team USA in the World Cup for me. No time for that BS,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“Megan Rapinoe is anti-American. Get out of this country you’re not wanted. You are a disgraceful, disrespectful human being,” someone else wrote.

Rapinoe, who is openly gay, said former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who incited a lot of controversy for kneeling during the anthem, has definitely influenced her.

Rapinoe controls the ball during the U.S.' World Cup opener against Thailand on June 1, 2019.Marcio Machado / Getty Images

“But Colin Kaepernick very much inspired me, and inspired an entire nation, and still does, to actually think about these things,” she told Yahoo Sports earlier this year. “The way he spoke about them so clearly, so matter-of-fact, wasn’t trying to convince anyone. Just, ‘This is what is happening, this is what I’m willing to do about it.’ I found that extremely inspiring and convicting. Like, how can you not support?”

She also said her decision to bypass the anthem is a statement against President Trump.

“Because I’m as talented as I am, I get to be here, you don’t get to tell me if I can be here or not,” she told Yahoo Sports. “So it’s kind of a good ‘F you’ to any sort of inequality or bad sentiments that the (Trump) administration might have towards people who don’t look exactly like him.”

While she has plenty of detractors, several other people have rallied to Rapinoe’s side.

“Megan Rapinoe was one of the first white people to kneel in support of Kaepernick. She’s immensely brave and any attempts to smear her as unpatriotic are just the same old means to deflect from the issues she seeks to shed light on. She represents patriotism in it’s truest form,” someone wrote.

“I’m a Vietnam era veteran,” another person wrote. “Just want you to know I stand with you in solidarity with my arms crossed and my head down when I hear any national anthem. Sad how people call you out.”

Rapinoe also doesn’t think she will ever go back to participating in the anthem.

“I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart,” she told Yahoo Sports. “I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again.”

The U.S. squad will return to action Thursday when it squares off against Sweden at 3 p.m. EST.