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US Soccer scraps controversial anthem kneeling ban

‘We apologize to our players – especially our black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism.’

Megan Rapinoe knees next to team-mates before a game between USA and Netherlands in September 2016.
Megan Rapinoe knees next to team-mates before a game between USA and Netherlands in September 2016.
Image: John Bazemore

THE UNITED STATES Soccer Federation said yesterday it has scrapped a controversial policy banning players from kneeling during the national anthem.

In a statement, US Soccer said the rule introduced in 2017 was wrong, and reflected a failure of the federation to address the concerns of black people and minorities.

The USSF rule mandating that players must “stand respectfully” during the national anthem was introduced three years ago.

It came after US women’s team star Megan Rapinoe knelt during the anthem at a 2016 international in a gesture of solidarity with former NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

“It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter,” the USSF said Wednesday as it announced the rule had been repealed.

“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.

“We apologize to our players – especially our black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism.

“Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.”

The USSF had faced mounting pressure to review the no-kneeling policy on the heels of nationwide protests which have swept through the United States following the death in police custody of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.

On Monday, the powerful United States Women’s National Team Players Association had called on the USSF to repeal its policy and issue an apology.

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Kaepernick’s take-a-knee protest has become an emblematic expression of solidarity adopted during demonstrations which have rippled across the globe.

Kaepernick had begun kneeling during the anthem in August 2016 in order to draw attention to racial injustice following the deaths of several unarmed black men during confrontations with police.

He was later released by the San Francisco 49ers in early 2017 and has not played a minute in the NFL since.

US Soccer meanwhile said it would now allow its players to protest as they see fit.

“It should be, and will be going forward, up to our players to determine how they can best use their platforms to fight all forms of racism, discrimination, and inequality,” the federation said.

“We are here for our players and are ready to support them in elevating their efforts to achieve social justice.

“We cannot change the past, but we can make a difference in the future. We are committed to this change effort, and we will be implementing supporting actions in the near future.”

© – AFP 2020  

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