Back in September of 2016, Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem, first during a game for the Seattle Reign on September 4, and then again during a US women’s national team game on September 15 when they played Thailand.
In response, US Soccer instituted Policy 604-1, in which “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.”
Now as multiple athletes join in on kneeling or being absent during the anthem as a method of protesting the disparate treatment of Black people in the United States, particularly through police brutality, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle reports that a USSF spokesperson says the policy “remains in place.”
Though more and more people are equating kneeling now as an act of defiance against Donald Trump, it’s important to remember the genesis of the current movement with Colin Kaepernick, who decided to kneel at great personal cost to his career in order to highlight pervasive, violent racism. Megan Rapinoe was the first white athlete to kneel in solidarity with him. At the time, she wrote a piece for the Players Tribune explaining her decision:
“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street. But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache.”
Most recently, Rapinoe was joined by several NWSL players, including USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn and forward Sydney Leroux, in not walking out for the anthem before the Seattle Reign played FC Kansas City.
Perhaps we may also see MLS players join in on this method of protest, as their Players Union released a statement supporting their players’ right to free speech.
"All players have every right to exercise their Constitutional rights and we will do everything in our power to defend those rights..." pic.twitter.com/piPlCfdi2R— MLS Players Union (@MLSPlayersUnion) September 25, 2017
Rapinoe has said she will abide by USSF’s policy, but as the Reign game shows, she is still engaged in a form of protest that follows the letter of the law by standing respectfully during the anthem, just not on the field. We’ll see if any more of the WNT decide to protest in this manner as they have two upcoming friendlies in October against South Korea.