Arena expects U.S. players to tell him of planned protests during anthem

SANFORD, Florida -- U.S. men's national team manager Bruce Arena said that if any of his players plan on kneeling for the national anthem, he expects they would check with him first.

Friday's World Cup qualifier against Panama will mark the first U.S. game since President Donald J. Trump made derogatory remarks about NFL players who kneel for the anthem, going so far as to say they should be fired.

Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's training session, Arena was asked if he would support his players if they felt moved to make that kind of gesture.

"I'm sure they'd talk to me about it if that's the case, but we haven't discussed that," he said.

When pressed further on the topic, Arena said, "I think our guys are focused on the game. They have constitutional rights like anybody else. I can't tell you what would happen if someone expressed themselves in protest, if that's what that is.

"I don't know the answer to that. I don't anticipate that happening."

Earlier this year, the USSF adopted Policy 604-1, which reads: "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 U.S. women's national team midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who in a bid to show solidarity with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the anthem prior to a match against Thailand, and did the same several times with her club, the Seattle Reign.

The USSF has been vague as to what the penalty would be for a player who is deemed to have violated the policy. Last week a U.S. Soccer spokesman indicated it would depend on how the player actually engaged in the protest.