Colin Kaepernick became the center of controversy for his national anthem protest last season, but he was far from the only athlete leveraging pre-game festivities to protest. United States Women's National Team player Megan Rapinoe was one of many athletes to join Kaepernick last fall, causing controversy by eschewing the tradition of standing while the Star-Spangled Banner plays.
The U.S. Soccer Federation took a controversial step to combat this form of protest on Saturday. Former U.S. National Team player Stuart Holden, currently an analyst for Fox Soccer, shared this photo of a new policy added to the federation's by-laws:
This legislation bans the form of protest used by Rapinoe and Kaepernick in any game involving U.S. Soccer. Holden shared additional information as soccer fans questioned the details of the new rule, and revealed that it effectively affords the federation unlimited power to reprimand players should they break the rule.
Things appeared to be heading in this direction for a while. After the initial protest by Rapinoe in September, the U.S. Soccer Federation released a statement expressing their desire to have players stand for the anthem.
"Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer's National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer," the USSF said in their September statement. "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."
Commissioners for America's major sports leagues have expressed similar thoughts, though they've differentiated themselves by voicing sympathy for an athlete's right to protest. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell played both sides of the fence when he discussed Kaepernick last September, saying the league believed "very strongly in patriotism" while acknowledging "we don't live in a perfect society."
NBA boss Adam Silver took a similar approach before the 2016-17 season began. Discussing the matter at the annual board of governors meeting in New York, Silver told reporters, "It would be my hope that they continue to stand for the national anthem." Silver highlighted the league's preference to take meaningful action -- such as when they removed the All-Star Game from North Carolina -- when faced with social issues and opportunities to make an impact.
U.S. Soccer's decision to pander exclusively to one view was not received well, and dissenters took to Twitter to express their frustration with the new rule.
Regardless of how you feel about people protesting during the national anthem, mandating what people have to do during a song meant to celebrate American freedom is pretty absurd. America is supposed to stand for the ability to do and say what you want while others do the same, and restricting that for people quite literally representing the country sends a confusing message.
This probably won't be the last you'll hear on anthem protests, even if Kaepernick himself claims he'll stand during the anthem from now on. If nothing else, this proves using the anthem as a means of protest will keep the story in the public consciousness.
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