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U.S. soccer will now allow players to kneel for national anthem

Members of the women's U.S. soccer team stand for the national anthem.(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
February 28, 2021

The U.S. Soccer Federation will no longer require players to stand for the national anthem, voting to repeal a 2017 policy that called on national team players to “stand respectfully” during the Star Spangled Banner before national team games.

During a virtual conference of the group’s annual general meeting on Saturday, 71.34 percent of National Council members voted to repeal the policy which had already been nixed by the USSF board of directors last summer. Hundreds of voters make up the National Council, including representatives for youth, adult amateur and professional populations, in addition to the athletes’ council.     

The repealed policy stated, “All persons representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the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.”

United States Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone commented on the vote during Saturday’s meetings, asserting that the decision was not meant to disrespect the flag or the military.

“This is about the athletes’ and our staff’s right to peacefully protest racial inequalities and police brutality,” she said. “So I urge our membership to please support our staff and our athletes on this policy.”

According to ESPN, the rule was created after U.S. women’s national team player Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem prior to a game in 2016. While the top midfielder also knelt several times with the Seattle Reign, now the OL Reign,  Rapinoe agreed to honor the rule after its adoption.  

Following the policy’s creation in 2017, women’s team coach Jill Ellis expressed support for move, noting that she believed players should “honor the country.”

“I’ve always felt that that should be what we do, to honor the country, have the pride of putting on the national team jersey. I said that previously. I think that should be the expectation,” she said. “That’s our workplace out there, and I think we should represent ourselves and our country. So yeah, I’m pleased with that.”

Former U.S. men’s team player Jermaine Jones also supported the policy.  

“You know, for me it’s clear. I think if you represent your country, you have to stand,” he said. “So if you have the blessing that you can wear that jersey, I don’t think it’s nice for you to kneel down and that’s my [view] to that.”

Jones continued, “But I think everyone can make his own choice as to what he wants. But I think if the national team says that, they’re right.”