U.S. Soccer board votes to repeal stand-for-anthem policy

The U.S. Soccer Federation's board of directors voted to repeal its policy requiring national team players to stand during the national anthem.

At the urging of USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone, the board met via conference call Tuesday to discuss the policy, and rather than waiting until its next meeting Friday, the board decided to vote on repeal.

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The news was first reported by Grant Wahl on his Twitter account.

U.S. Soccer's statement read: "The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday afternoon to repeal Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem. The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of color in America.

"It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter."

The repeal will take effect immediately, meaning that it will be in force until the next annual general meeting (AGM) early next year. At that point, the national council will vote to either back the repeal or keep the policy in place.

Policy 604-1, which was passed at the USSF's AGM in 2017, states: "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 policy was adopted in response to the actions of U.S. women's national team midfielder Rapinoe, who kneeled for the national anthem before a 2016 match against Thailand. She did so in a show of solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick, who kneeled during the anthem prior to NFL games to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

Rapinoe did the same several times with her club, the Seattle Reign, now known as OL Reign. Following the policy's adoption, Rapinoe said she would honor the policy, and she has done so.

The U.S. Soccer Athletes' Council, which includes current national team players Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger, as well as former players such as Landon Donovan, called on U.S. Soccer to apologize for the policy to allow a "positive relationship to exist going forward."

"Then and only then do we feel a new chapter between the USSF and its athletes can begin. Additionally, we urge U.S. Soccer to develop a plan with action items focused on anti-racism that will be shared publicly with its athletes, key stakeholders, and fans," the council said in a statement earlier this week.

The U.S. Women's National Team Players Association also called for an apology from U.S. Soccer on Monday and a plan to substantively address racial inequality.

The association's statement read: "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."

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, when Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes on May 25 in Minneapolis, protests have taken place across the U.S. in response to the very issues Kaepernick and Rapinoe were trying to draw attention to. Some of the recent demonstrations have included protesters and even police officers kneeling. This led the USSF to reconsider its policy.

The statement from U.S. Soccer on Wednesday addressed the players' concerns: "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."

The repeal had the support of the players' unions representing the U.S. women's and men's national teams, as well as the USSF staff.