In recent years, the United States women's soccer team has become more widely recognized for its pregame political posturing than for its dominance on the field — and now one former team member is going public with criticism for the way things have operated.
What are the details?
In a podcast interview Monday, former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo opened up about the palpable internal conflict on the team during her time as a member, specifically calling out forward Megan Rapinoe for pressuring others to comply with her progressive activism.
"I think the rhetoric surrounding this team has been both divisive and inclusive. I guess it's kind of where we are in politics in this day and age," Solo told Goal.com on "All of Us: The U.S. Women's Soccer Show."
"I think the kneeling thing can be very divisive," she continued. "I've seen Megan Rapinoe almost bully players into kneeling because she really wants to stand up for something in her particular way."
"I think that's really hard being on the main stage right now with so many political issues for athletes, there's a lot of pressure," she added.
What's the background?
Rapinoe and several of her teammates on the women's national team have adopted the practice of kneeling during the national anthem when it is played before games as a form of political protest. She and others have also been outspoken on a number of other issues, including equal pay for female athletes.
Until now, there haven't been any reports of forced kneeling or backlash against those who chose not to join in the protest, though it's true that a large majority of players have knelt when permitted. Solo appeared to indicate that at least some form of pressure to conform was present.
The team's brash activism has drawn scrutiny from many fans. During the Tokyo Olympics last month, fellow Americans admitted they rooted against the team during the tournament and actually cheered their semifinal loss to Canada.
Solo has not been a member of the team since 2016, but she and Rapinoe played together for 10 years prior to that, beginning in 2006. The pair won a World Cup and two Olympic gold medals together in that span.
The goalkeeper ended up withdrawing from the team and retiring after off-field incidents damaged her reputation. Solo was arrested in 2014 and charged with assaulting two of her family members. Then in 2016, she was suspended by the U.S. national team after calling the Swedish national team a "bunch of cowards" following a face-off in the Olympics.