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US Soccer repeals ban on players kneeling during national anthem

Megan Rapinoe (Credit: Getty Images)

The United States Soccer Federation’s board of directors have repealed a policy which required players to stand during the national anthem.

The policy was put in place in February 2017 after US Women’s National Team player Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had been protesting police brutality and the systematic oppression of Black people in the States.

Kaepernick and Rapinoe both faced sharp criticism for the protests. But in the past month, public sentiment has changed over the right to peaceful protest and raise awareness of these issues following the recent death of Minnesota resident George Floyd while in police custody.

“It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter,” US Soccer said in a statement.

“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 statement added.

According to multiple reports, US Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone forced the issue to be put to a vote by the board of directors. The vote to repeal was not unanimous, however, the New York Times reported.

The US Women’s National Team Players Association called for a repeal of the ban earlier this week and also called for an apology from US Soccer.

“Until USSF does so, the mere existence of the policy will continue 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,” the players said in a statement.

Last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the league previously did not handle properly issues of racial justice in the US, and now encourages players to protest peacefully.

“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said in a 81-second video address released June 5.