The United States Soccer Federation’s (USSF) national council has voted to repeal a policy that required players to stand for the national anthem.
More than 70 percent of the members of U.S. Soccer’s ruling body voted on Feb. 27 to repeal Policy 604-1, which was originally adopted by the USSF in 2017. The policy stated, “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.”
The USSF adopted the policy in response to response to U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe, who knelt for the national anthem before a 2016 match to show solidarity with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt before NFL games in protest against police brutality.
The item was considered during the virtual assembly of the USSF’s annual general meeting, with USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone weighing in on the rationale for the policy repeal.
“This is about the athletes’ and our staff’s right to peacefully protest racial inequalities and police brutality,” she said. “So I urge our membership to please support our staff and our athletes on this policy.”
A notable voice of opposition came from Seth Jahn, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the U.S. Soccer Athlete Council, who delivered a heated rebuke of the proposal, which he prefaced by saying, “I’m sure I’m going to ruffle some feathers.
“Given the evolution of our quote-unquote progressive culture, where everything offends everybody, those willing to take a knee for our anthem don’t care about offending half of our country when they do so, then I don’t have too much concern in also exercising my First Amendment right,” he said, lashing out against the “current obsession of identity politics” and denounced the repeal as “politicizing sport.”
Jahn, who is of mixed race, said “the last thing anybody really wants” is to see sport politicized, before challenging the issue of police brutality, calling it “a narrative with relatively zero data to substantiate it,” which is “exacerbated by the media in order to garner their ratings as they exploit our emotive state.”
While acknowledging that police brutality does exist and “it’s important to address those atrocities when they manifest,” he brought up FBI statistics that he said show that police brutality in the black community is “truly a statistical anomaly.”
“Per the FBI statistics, there are nearly 400 million police interactions annually, 95 percent of the deaths in the black communities come at the hands of another black man, 3.7 percent at the hands of law enforcement, with 3.2 percent of those deaths being a justified use of force,” he said.
Jahn said that in his 11 years in the military, he had been injured multiple times, spent two years in hospital as an inpatient that had been paralyzed, “all while fighting for people of color all over the world.”
He said he supports the First Amendment rights of athletes to advocate for whatever cause they choose, “but not while representing our country on the pitch. Do that on your own individual platform, and I’ll support that all day.”
Meanwhile, players for the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) have decided not to kneel during the anthem.
“I think those that were collectively kneeling felt like we were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism,” said USWNT player Crystal Dunn, who is black.
“Moving forward, we decided we no longer feel the need to kneel because we are doing the work behind the scenes. We are combating systemic racism. We never felt we were going to kneel forever,” she said last week, confirming that the team will no longer be taking a knee.
All players stood for the national anthem before the team’s 2–0 win over Brazil in a Feb. 21 matchup in the SheBelieves Cup.