Five months after U.S. Soccer lashed out at Megan Rapinoe for kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest before an exhibition game, they’ve codified their dislike for silent and non-disruptive self-expression in this form. As of today, they’re apparently the first major American sports organization to formally announce a requirement that players stand for the national anthem since Colin Kaepernick sparked anthem protests across several sports last fall.
(While the NBA’s official rulebook requires “dignified posture” from players during the anthem, the league announced before the start of last season that they were interested in working with the players’ association to allow them to best express themselves during the song.)
From Stuart Holden of FOX:
Holden reported that there are “no pre-set consequences” and violations would be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
This perhaps isn’t so surprising, given that U.S. Soccer was quick to fire back when Rapinoe knelt back in September: “As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played,” their statement read in part. Rapinoe noted at the time that her kneeling was a way to show support for Kaepernick’s similar protests and to stand with marginalized groups. “Quite honestly, being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected,” she told ESPNW. (No other U.S. Soccer players seem to have knelt in protest or spoken out on the issue since then.)
But speaking out to condemn Rapinoe’s protest a few months ago apparently wasn’t enough, as that condemnation has now been written into the organization’s bylaws. Players can represent their country only, apparently, if they’re willing to represent the version of the country in which U.S. Soccer is most interested in selling.
Update, 5:35 p.m.: The players’ spokesperson for the U.S. Women’s National Team has issued a brief statement on the bylaw change: