Former U.S. women’s national team player Hope Solo said during a podcast last week that she saw teammate Megan Rapinoe “almost bully” players into kneeling for the national anthem.
“I’ve seen Megan Rapinoe almost bully players into kneeling because she really wants to stand up for something in her particular way, but it’s our right as Americans to do it in whatever way we’re comfortable with,” Solo said on “All of US: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Show“ last Tuesday.
The former goalie described kneeling as “very divisive.”
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“I do appreciate the fact that there’s no national anthem right before the game. To really remove that decision from athletes. Because that’s very tough, it’s tough,” she said.
Solo, 40, added that there is a lot of pressure on athletes and many feel they are “carrying the world on their back.”
“I think that’s really hard being on the main stage right now with so many political issues for athletes,” she said. “There’s a lot of pressure, and ultimately at the end of the day, our number one focus should and has always been to win first.”
Earlier this month, U.S. women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd stunned fans when she appeared to be the only American player standing before the team’s match against Australia at the Tokyo Olympics.
The team had received criticism at the start of the Olympics when players knelt before their match against Sweden, which the U.S. lost 3-0. Their rocky start ended with a bronze medal after the team beat Australia, 4-3, to finish in third place.
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Rapinoe has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump. This month, the former president, in a statement issued by his Save America PAC, accused the soccer players of being “woke” and not focused on winning.
“If our soccer team, headed by a radical group of Leftist Maniacs, wasn’t woke, they would have won the Gold Medal instead of the Bronze,” Trump wrote.
Rapinoe was also the first white athlete to follow Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest against racism and discrimination. She drew blowback from U.S. Soccer, which later required its athletes to stand for the national anthem.
Last year, Rapinoe lauded Kaepernick during the ESPY Awards and said his 2016 protests left a lasting legacy. Time magazine ranked Rapinoe as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020 due to her impact on and “beyond the pitch.”
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Solo – a World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist — played on the U.S. women’s national soccer team from 2000 to 2016.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report