Rapinoe lauded Kaepernick during the ESPY Awards on Sunday night and said his 2016 protests left a lasting legacy.
“Colin Kaepernick never shied away. He knew that discomfort was essential to liberation, and that fighting the oppression against black people is bigger than sports. So will it be uncomfortable? Yes. In speaking up, will we make mistakes? Yes. That cannot stop us from trying, and not just for a few days or for a few [Instagram] posts.”
Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice and police brutality has been thrown back into the spotlight in the sports world in the wake of several police-involved deaths of unarmed African Americans and the protests that have ensued.
Rapinoe was the first white athlete to follow Kaepernick’s kneeling protest. Rapinoe drew blowback from U.S. Soccer, which later required its athletes to stand for the national anthem.
During the Women’s World Cup, Rapinoe refused to put her hand over her heart as a form of protest in lieu of kneeling. U.S. Soccer recently reversed its ban on standing during the anthem.