The U.S. Soccer Federation has repealed Policy 604-1, which stated that anyone representing a national team “shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems.” The federation announced that the board of directors vote took place on Tuesday, one day after the federation’s players associations and Athlete Council called for the policy’s repeal.
“The U.S. Soccer Federation affirms Black Lives Matter, and we support the fight against racial injustices,” the federation’s statement begins.
U.S. Soccer’s board passed Policy 604-1 into effect in February 2017, just months after U.S. women’s national team winger Megan Rapinoe began kneeling during the national anthem, in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.
Rapinoe first knelt on Sept. 4, 2016, in a National Women’s Soccer League match. On Sept. 15, 2016, she took a knee during the national anthem while wearing a United States uniform, before the Americans’ friendly match against Thailand.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” Rapinoe said at the time. “It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”
U.S. Soccer responded immediately after Rapinoe knelt in a U.S. uniform with a statement that said: “As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the National Anthem is played.”
Rapinoe was still working to fully recover from a torn ACL suffered in December 2015, but she was notably available and active when she was not selected to play in the final three U.S. matches of 2016 or the first three matches of 2017 — higher-profile games in the SheBelieves Cup. Rapinoe said after Policy 604-1 was passed that she would respect the decision and stop kneeling.
New York Times assistant editor Andrew Das reported that Tuesday’s decision to repeal Policy 604-1 was not unaimous.
U.S. Soccer’s full statement on Wednesday, on the repeal of Policy 604-1, apologized to players in general and, specifically, Black players. The statement does not specifically apologize to Rapinoe, although it does mention her and Kaepernick by name:
“The U.S. Soccer Federation affirms Black Lives Matter, and we support the fight against racial injustices.
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.
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.
It should be, and will be going forward, up to our players to determine how they can best use their platforms to fight all forms of racism, discrimination, and inequality. We are here for our players and are ready to support them in elevating their efforts to achieve social justice. We cannot change the past, but we can make a difference in the future. We are committed to this change effort, and we will be implementing supporting actions in the near future.”