The adoption of a new policy makes US Soccer the first American professional sports league to require all players to stand during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
The policy was created after a female soccer player took a knee during the national anthem at several matches last season in support of NFL football player Colin Kaerpernick, who refused to stand for the anthem in protest of a culture of oppression that targets African Americans.
Last fall, Megan Rapinoe of the US Women’s National Soccer Team followed the San Francisco 49’ers quarterback’s lead and refused to stand during the traditional game opening recitation of the national anthem.
In response, the league’s governing body has announced that it has adopted a new policy requiring all players to stand for the anthem or face undisclosed penalties.
In a statement, released on the social media platform Twitter, former pro soccer player Stuart Holden posted a screenshot of the new rule, passed on February 9, that said:
“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.”
In a comment accompanying the passage of the new rule, the organization released a statement:
“We have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor the flag while the national anthem is played.”
Kaepernick has become a lightning rod for the culture war raging in our nation. His solamn but resolute refusal to stand during the performance of the Star Spangled Banner at football games last year earned him both respect and contempt.
He began the silent protest in response to the increased level of law enforcement violence targeting people of color in the United States. While many have praised him for his stand, or at least acknowledged his right to make it, many others see it as one of the highest measures of disrespect and contempt for our nation, and have called for his dismissal from the San Francisco 49ers and from the NFL for his actions.
Kaepernick has said that he will stand for the playing of the anthem during the 2017-2018 NFL season.
This new rule for US Soccer makes it the first professional league to mandatorily require players to stand for the anthem or face penalties.
While the announcement does not specify what those penalties might be, Megan Rapinoe was left of the National Team’s roster for this season. This decision has some wondering if it might be what players can expect moving forward, thus instituting a sort of “blacklist.”
The Star Spangled Banner has been part of the opening ceremony of professional sports teams since the 1940’s. During that period, even team owners wondered if playing before every game lessened the impact, and it was not till the 1960s that it became standard practice. The first documented case of athletes using the national anthem as a means of protesting racist policies came at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when the American gold and silver medalists in a sprint event bowed their heads and raised their fists during the medal ceremony. This became an iconic image for a generation struggling with racial justice in an ostensibly free country.
What do you think about US Soccer’s new rule? Is it fair or does it effectively censor its employees rights to express their conscience? Share your thoughts with us here.