USWNT member Crystal Dunn says she was scared to join Megan Rapinoe in kneeling protest

The U.S Soccer Federation has repealed its rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem, but the USWNT’s most experienced black player still remembers the environment she faced when the rule was first put into place.

Crystal Dunn, who has appeared in 91 matches for the USWNT, discussed her perspective with Megan Rapinoe’s protests in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and the reaction it sparked during a Bleacher Report roundtable, via

Noting that she has had “countless” conversations with Rapinoe about racial injustice in the past, Dunn said she was afraid of the retribution she would face as a black player if she took a knee with Rapinoe:

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I just remember our conversation where she came up to me and said, ‘Crys, I'm thinking of kneeling.’ I remember being filled with so much joy for her wanting to fight a cause that, in my opinion at that time was like, ‘You have nothing to do with this.’ That’s ignorant on my part just thinking that off the bat, but I was so moved that she wanted to fight for this cause.

I also remember telling her that I had to stand because I don't know what's going to happen. I'm scared for my job. I'm scared that it's going to look differently if a black girl on the team kneels and I don't know.

I just remember having really hard conversations with her, how I was internally conflicted. I saw the way U.S. Soccer responded and treated Megan. To me, I'm thinking they kept her out of some games, kept her out of camps, and yes that was bad, but to me, I was thinking that they could rip up my contract, so I thought I was actually going to get it worse.

While Dunn is an experienced player now, she was in her first full year with the senior women’s team in 2016. Rapinoe certainly saw considerable blowback from those opposing Kaepernick as well as her own soccer federation.

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, USA's Megan Rapinoe, right, kneels next to teammates Ali Krieger (11) and Crystal Dunn (16) as the U.S. national anthem is played before an exhibition soccer match against Netherlands, in Atlanta. The U.S. Soccer Federation has adopted a policy that says national team players "shall stand respectfully" during national anthems. The policy was approved in February 2017 but came to light on Saturday, March 4, 2017, before the U.S. women's national team played England in a SheBelieves Cup match. The policy comes after midfielder Rapinoe knelt during the anthem at a pair of national team matches in 2016. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Crystal Dunn (second from left) was afraid to join Megan Rapinoe in kneeling in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Rapinoe ceased her protests when U.S. Soccer imposed its rule, and has since found other ways to politically speak out.


U.S. Soccer’s announcement that it was repealing the ban conceded that it was put in place in response to Rapinoe and apologized for not doing better in the fight against racial injustice. That was a move Dunn was happy to hear:

They truly did need to apologize first. First and foremost, for the way they responded to those protests, because it was peaceful. Countless times it was repeated that it was not about the flag, but yet they twisted the narrative, same as the rest of the country and the NFL. They wanted to put out what they wanted to say, and that got pushed into the headlines.

Pinoe lost money obviously not coming into camps and was told that she wasn’t good enough. The amount of things that were spewed her way to justify her not being called into camps was crazy. It was outrageous. I truly, to this day, am so thankful to have a teammate like her to just not be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

Dunn is currently a member of the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage, and has been named to the league's Best XI twice. She won MVP and Golden Boot honors in 2015.

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