Washington Spirit plays anthem early rather than let Seattle Reign’s Rapinoe take a knee

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  U.S. women's national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe poses for a portrait at the USOC Rio Olympics Shoot at Quixote Studios on November 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20: U.S. women's national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe poses for a portrait at the USOC Rio Olympics Shoot at Quixote Studios on November 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – The Washington Spirit elected to play the national anthem early Wednesday night rather than let the Seattle Reign’s Megan Rapinoe take a knee in protest as she’d planned.

The anthem played while the teams were still in their locker rooms.

The Spirit issued a statement soon after, saying team owner Bill Lynch is a veteran who “lost personal friends during overseas conflicts.”

Rapinoe announced she’d be kneeling during the anthem before games in support of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is doing the same to protest racial inequality.

“I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t,” Rapinoe told American Soccer Now earlier this week. “We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.”

The statement from the Spirit said the club feels “there are better ways to begin a conversation about a cause than tarnishing a tradition that is important to so many.”

The club described Rapinoe’s cause as “worthy,” but said it disagreed with her method of “hijacking” the match to further it.

“To willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves,” the club’s statement read.