The U.S. Soccer Federation officially repealed a policy Saturday requiring players to stand during the anthem.
The USSF National Council repealed policy 604-1, which was created in 2017 in response to U.S women’s national team midfielder Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the anthem ahead of a 2016 game against Thailand to show support for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick knelt ahead of NFL games to draw attention to and protest social justice issues and police brutality.
The decision to repeal the policy Saturday received 71.34% of the weighted vote. The no-kneeling enactment had been repealed in June by the board of directors but needed the wider organization vote to confirm.
The policy had stated that “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.”
After George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May 2020 while in police custody, there was a renewed push ahead of the national anthem across sports to make a statement. That prompted the USSF to rethink the anthem policy.
However, the U.S. women’s team players all stood for the anthem ahead of last weekend’s SheBelieves Cup match against Brazil.
“Moving forward, we decided we no longer feel the need to kneel because we are doing the work behind the scenes,” defender Crystal Dunn said. “We are combating systemic racism. We never felt we were going to kneel forever.”
Of the roughly 30% of voters who pushed to keep the policy preventing kneeling during the anthem, U.S. Paralympian and athletes’ council member Seth Jahn most fervently fought against the repeal.
In a seven-minute speech, Jahn said police brutality is “a narrative with relatively zero data to substantiate it,” and he seemed to minimize slavery by saying the United States was not alone in the practice.
“I keep hearing how our country was founded on the backs of slaves even though approximately only 8% of the entire population even owned slaves,” Jahn said. “Every race in the history of mankind has been enslaved by another demographic at some point in time.
“Blacks have been enslaved, Hispanics have been enslaved, Asians — most recently in our country, in the freaking 20th century — have been enslaved, Natives have been enslaved, whites have been enslaved. Shoot, I lived in Africa for two and a half years where I could purchase people — slaves — between the price of $300 and $800 per person, per head, depending on their age, health and physicality. Where are the social justice warriors and the news journalists to bring illumination to these real atrocities?
“Yet in all of history only one country has fought to abolish slavery: The United States of America, where nearly 400,000 men died to fight for the abolishment of slavery underneath the same stars and bars that our athletes take a knee for. Their sacrifice is tainted with every … knee that touches the ground. It’s shameful and embarrassing.”
USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone said after the vote to repeal the anthem policy that the action is was not meant to disrespect the military or the flag. Rather, “this is about the athletes’ and our staff right to peacefully protest racial inequalities and police brutality,” Cone said.