US Soccer scraps anthem-kneeling policy

United States Soccer votes to end a ban on players kneeling during the national anthem.

Members of the Canada team kneel and wear Black Lives Matter shirts during the playing of their national anthem before a SheBelieves Cup contest.   -  AP

United States Soccer on Saturday voted to end a ban on players kneeling during the national anthem, something they have done to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

More than 70 percent of the members of US Soccer’s ruling body voted to scrap the policy requiring players to “stand respectfully” during the song. About 30 percent voted to keep the policy in place.

“We know that this is a very divisive issue within our country and throughout the world,” U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone told reporters. “So I was not surprised that our membership was not 100 percent one way or the other.”

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The U.S. women’s national team stood as a group during the anthem prior to its SheBelieves Cup game on February 21 after some knelt in the tournament opener on February 18. Team members said they were past the protesting phase of the anthem debate but still committed to fighting to end to systemic racism.

National Football League player Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice. Other players joined him until team owners banned the practice. That policy was reversed in 2020 during a wave of national protests over racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd in May.

In June, US soccer’s board of directors voted to repeal the no-kneeling policy, which was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in 2016.

That board vote required confirmation by the wider U.S. Soccer governing body, which it received on Saturday.

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