The protests over racial injustice have brought back the hot button issue of athletes taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. It seems like this should have been put to rest a long time ago, but no, it’s back. It’s an issue again.
First, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for speaking out against Colin Kaepernick kneeling on football fields as a protest to racial inequality. He now encourages football players to speak out and protest peacefully.
Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe has exploited the issue perfectly to boost her name id and turned herself into a celebrity with the help of her social justice warrior skills. Rapinoe plays in the National Women’s Soccer League and on the United States national team. When she began kneeling at the start of a couple of national team games in 2016, the league had to make a decision over the controversial issue – do they allow players to kneel or not? The board decided against it. Policy 604-1 went into effect in February 2017.
Policy 604-1 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 board passed the rule on Feb. 9, 2017.
That was then and this is now. Wednesday the U.S. Soccer board of directors voted to repeal their own policy. It happened during a conference call and the process of how the vote came about is less than transparent. Fingers are being pointed at U.S. Soccer’s new president, Cindy Parlow Cone.
A person with knowledge of the discussions regarding the policy said new President Cindy Parlow Cone first broached repealing the rule last week, calling for the special meeting of the board. The person asked to remain anonymous because the process was not made public. Three players were invited on the call to share their opinions.
“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,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
However, once a board of directors wobbles, activists rush in and the demands for more actions happen. That happened here, too. A general acknowledgment of the need to do more to understand grievances and a basic apology wasn’t enough. Unable to just take the win that the no-kneeling policy was being taken away, some players are demanding more.
The U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council, which includes current national team players Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger, as well as former players like Landon Donovan, called on U.S. Soccer to also apologize for the policy to foster 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 US 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 and a plan to substantively address racial inequality.
“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.
George Floyd’s death at the hands of cops has brought the peaceful protest gesture back into the forefront. The fallout has been predictable from President Trump, who strongly opposes kneeling during sports games, as he feels it is an affront to America’s most recognizable patriotic symbol, the American flag. Those who kneel claim that this isn’t the case, they kneel to bring attention to a social issue, not to disgrace the flag.
Peaceful protests via physical gestures aren’t anything new. Remember the black Olympians who raised clenched fists as the national anthem played during their award ceremony? That was in 1968. It’s hard not to think of that turbulent year now that protests are taking over the news cycle every day. Boomer Marxists of the 60s produced the socialists and anarchists now looking to change our fundamental way of life. Taking a knee on a football field or a soccer field seems pretty tame when its compared to burning down a city, doesn’t it? Protesters are being jailed and then released without charges being pressed, so why should kneeling athletes be penalized? That’s what the soccer players are thinking anyway. And, it looks like the new U.S. Soccer president agrees.
The repeal of Policy 604-1 goes into effect immediately. It still has to be voted on at the next annual general meeting, scheduled to take place in February or March. The National Council could either back the repeal or vote to keep the policy in place. I fully expect the council to back the repeal.