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US Soccer Gives In to Rapinoe and Company on Anthem Protests

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U.S. Soccer’s board of directors has voted to repeal a 2017 policy that required national team players to stand during the national anthem, a rule adopted after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The board made the decision during a conference call, U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday.

Policy 604-1 states: “All persons representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented.” The board passed the rule on Feb. 9, 2017.

A person with knowledge of the discussions regarding the policy said new President Cindy Parlow Cone first broached repealing the rule last week, calling for the special meeting of the board. The person asked to remain anonymous because the process was not made public. Three players were invited on the call to share their opinions.

U.S. Soccer announced the change in a statement Wednesday, saying on Twitter, “Black Lives Matter. We can do more and we will.”

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The organization said its anthem policy “was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality, and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of color in America. It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter.

“We have not done enough to listen — especially to our players — to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country. We apologize to our players — especially our Black players — staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism. Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.”

The U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council, which includes current national team players Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger, as well as former players like Landon Donovan, called on U.S. Soccer to also apologize for the policy to foster a “positive relationship to exist going forward.”

“Then and only then do we feel a new chapter between the USSF and its athletes can begin. Additionally, we urge US Soccer to develop a plan with action items focused on anti-racism that will be shared publicly with its athletes, key stakeholders, and fans,” the council said in a statement earlier this week.

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The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association also called for an apology from U.S. Soccer and a plan to substantively address racial inequality.

“Until USSF does so, the mere existence of the policy will continue to perpetuate the misconceptions and fear that clouded the true meaning and significance of Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe and other athletes taking a knee — that Black people in America have not been and continue to not be afforded the same liberties and freedoms as white people and that police brutality and systemic racism exist in this country,” the players said in a statement.

Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem at a pair of national team matches in 2016. She said she wanted to express solidarity with Kaepernick, who started the divisive national anthem protests that year. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told reporters at the time.

To make a statement without violating U.S. Soccer’s policy during the women’s World Cup in 2019, Rapinoe refused to put her hand on her heart or sing the national anthem.

She described her demonstration as an “F you” to President Donald Trump and his administration.

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While many criticized the protests by Kaepernick, Rapinoe and others as an insult to those who have served in the U.S. military, athletes and sports leagues have embraced the anthem demonstrations since George Floyd’s death last month in Minneapolis police custody and the subsequent protests.

In a video message last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league erred in how it handled the divisive demonstrations.

“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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