Kneeling protests during the US national anthem before women’s games led soccer officials to ban the practice.(Twitter: @Gbpackfan32)

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The U.S. Women’s National Team called for the U.S. Soccer Federation to repeal its “anthem policy” via Twitter Monday night. Additionally, USWNT demanded the Federation issue an apology to black players and fans, arguing that the Federation was “wrong” to implement the policy. A lawyer for U.S. Men’s National Team union made similar appeals. USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone announced a conference call on Tuesday to review the policy, with a vote following either that meeting or the Friday quarterly executive meeting.

The policy was put into place in 2017 after USWNT captain Megan Rapinoe took a knee before two games in 2016 in support of Colin Kaepernick’s NFL protests during the national anthem. Rapinoe was the first major white athlete to follow Kaepernick’s lead. She was not officially punished; however, Rapinoe was not on her team’s roster for over 6 months, until the policy was passed. The policy 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.” Both players faced strong criticism for kneeling during the anthem from those who believed “the police, the military and others commonly associated with the flag are being disrespected.” Public sentiment towards the protests has shifted in light of recent global protests over George Floyd’s death.

The U.S. Soccer Athlete Council emphasized the USWNT position in a statement that affirmed repealing the policy would only be the beginning of changes in the USSF. The Athlete Council, an important voting faction in the USSF, noted, “One meeting among athletes is not going to fix all problems.” On Tuesday, Major League Soccer reiterated their support for players to peacefully protest during the National Anthem, a position they took three years ago following Kaepernick and Rapinoe’s protests.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

US women’s national team calls on US soccer to scrap kneeling ban – The Independent – 6/9/2020
The US women’s national team (USWNT) has called on the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) to apologise to black players and fans and repeal a policy that forbids players from kneeling during the national anthem. The USSF will meet on Tuesday to discuss the future of the rule, which demands that players “stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented”. Kneeling has become a symbol used by protestors in the fight against police brutality in the US, with rallies taking place in numerous cities around the country George Floyd’s death in May.

US women’s soccer calls for immediate repeal of federation’s ‘Anthem Policy’ requiring players to ‘stand respectfully’ – Fox News – 6/9/2020
“We believe the Federation should immediately repeal the ‘Anthem Policy,’ publish a statement acknowledging the policy was wrong when it was adopted and issue an apology to out Black players and supporters,” the statement posted to Twitter read. The group’s call to action comes just after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a public statement apologizing for the league’s initial handling of Colin Kaepernick’s protests in 2016. “Further, we believe the Federation should lay out its plans on how it will now support the message and movement that it tried to silence four years ago,” the statement continued.

The US Women’s National Team Is Demanding US Soccer Apologize To Black Players For Banning Kneeling During The National Anthem – BuzzFeed News – 6/9/2020
For Rapinoe, much of the damage had already been done by the time the policy was passed. After she said she would continue kneeling during the anthem, she was kept off of the US national team roster for more than six months. Though she attended several team camps, Rapinoe didn’t put on the uniform of the national team — including to appear on the bench — until after US Soccer passed the policy requiring players to stand and she had agreed publicly to comply.

USWNT Demands End to Anthem Standing Policy – Newsmax – 6/8/2020
The statement comes one day before a meeting where USA Soccer’s special board will review the anthem policy Tuesday, which requires players to “stand respectfully” while “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays before national team games.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Athlete Ally on Twitter, 6/9/2020: The @USWNT, including several of our Athlete Ally Ambassadors and Playing for Pride supporters, is demanding that US Soccer end a policy that penalizes players for taking a stand against racial injustice: “We are committed to rising up.”

Audra Burch on Twitter, 6/8/2020: U.S. Soccer’s anthem policy was even stricter than the NFL’s, forcing players to “stand respectfully” during the anthem at national games. Now US women’s national team is demanding US Soccer apologize, admit wrong and repeal kneeling ban.

KARE 11 on Twitter, 6/8/2020: The NFL announced it will support future, peaceful protests from its players, and the U.S. Soccer Federation is reportedly considering repealing a ban on kneeling. #Sunrisers, should athletes be allowed to kneel in protest at games?

Molly Hensley-Clancy on Twitter, 6/8/2020: Plus: I obtained emails showing that US Soccer initially said it wanted to punish any national team player who knelt with a three-game suspension — and *twelve months* for a second offense. No player was ever disciplined under the anthem policy.

Andrew Das on Twitter,  Funny thing about US Soccer’s national anthem policy: it never applied to the MNT or WNT, whose collective bargaining agreements do not allow a change in work rules (or penalties) without several other steps.

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