US Soccer Federation Officially Repeals Policy Requiring Players to "Stand Respectfully" For the National Anthem

Update, March 2, 2021: In June 2020, the US Soccer Federation's (USSF) board of directors repealed a policy that required players to stand for the national anthem, and on Feb. 27 of this year, the Federation's national council formally voted for that repeal, making it official. Over 71 percent of the council voted in favor of the repeal. "This is about the athletes' and our staff's right to peacefully protest racial inequalities and police brutality," USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone said, according to ESPN. "So I urge our membership to please support our staff and our athletes on this policy."

Update, June 11, 2020: The US Soccer Federation (USSF) released a statement on June 10 saying that the board of directors voted to repeal the anthem policy requiring players to stand during the national anthem. "We have not done enough to listen — especially to our players — to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country," the statement reads. "We apologize to our players – especially our Black players — staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism." See the full statement here. The repeal will take effect immediately, according to ESPN, but it still needs to be voted on during the next annual general meeting in early 2021, where the policy will either be reinstated or the repeal will stay in place.

Original post: The US women's national soccer team is speaking out about a policy put in place by the US Soccer Federation (USSF) requiring players to "stand respectfully" during the national anthem. Though no player who violated the policy faced penalties after the policy was adopted in February 2017, emails obtained by BuzzFeed News showed that US Soccer initially sought to suspend any national team player who didn't stand for the anthem with a three-game suspension for a first offense and a 12-month suspension for a second offense.

In 2016, Megan Rapinoe started kneeling during the anthem prior to matches to show she supported San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who did the same before football games to bring awareness to police brutality and racial injustice in America. As Rapinoe wrote in The Players' Tribune at the time, "I haven't experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member's body lying dead in the street. But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache."

After Rapinoe began kneeling at matches — but before the policy was passed — she was kept off the team roster for more than six months, though coach Jill Ellis insisted it was performance related. In March of 2017, one month after the policy was introduced, Rapinoe said she would stand for the anthem and was invited back to the national team camp. Kaepernick has gone unsigned since the 2016 season and filed a lawsuit against the NFL, claiming that they blacklisted him. The league denied this, and they reached a settlement in 2019.

The official account for the USWNT Players Association tweeted out a statement on June 8 that reads, in part, "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 our Black players and supporters." The policy, they believe, continues to "perpetuate the misconceptions and fear that clouded the true meaning and significance of Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe and other athletes taking a knee — that Black people in America have not been and continue to not be afforded the same liberties and freedoms as white people and that police brutality and systemic racism exist in this country." See the full statement ahead.

Unions for the men's and women's national teams said they believed the anthem policy could never "formally apply" to players, according to BuzzFeed News, because USSF had not properly approved it with them. Still, they want the policy revoked. A lawyer for the men's national team union stated, "The Federation now absolutely needs to acknowledge they were wrong to issue it, to apologize for it, and rescind it."

A USSF board meeting took place on June 9 to discuss steps moving forward, but no decision was reached and a vote might be made during the group's regularly scheduled board meeting on Friday, according to The New York Times. If repealed, that decision would take effect immediately, ESPN reported, but it would need to be voted on during the next annual general meeting next February or March for a permanent repeal.