Alexi Lalas caught heat on Saturday, after reiterating his defense of standing during the national anthem.
His comments came shortly after the NWSL Challenge Cup kick-off, in which players from the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage conducted an on-field protest against racism and police brutality. The starters were seen donning Black Lives Matter T-shirts before they took a knee during the pre-game national anthem. About half of the athletes held their hands over their hearts.
"We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism against Black people and people of color in America," the Thorns and Courage players said in a joint statement. "We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard. It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms that this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone."
Though many applauded the move, Lalas was seemingly unimpressed: "Now it takes courage to stand for the national anthem," he tweeted.
The retired soccer player/FOX Sports analyst went on to say he believed kneeling during the national anthem was the safe route, as "standing for the anthem was not the norm."
The NWSL responded to the comments via Twitter:
The #TakeaKnee movement was started in 2016 by former 49er Colin Kaepernick. Since then, many athletes across various sports have participated in the movement, which prompted leagues and organizations to establish protest policies. In 2017, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced all players were required to stand for anthems; Lalas had expressed support for the policy, which was repealed earlier this month.
"... From a rules and regulations standpoint, the U.S. Soccer Federation has come out and said that it’s a requirement of the players to stand for the National Anthem. That is something I support," he told Complex in 2017. "I do see a difference between a National Team moment and a club team moment. I would still stand regardless. But when we’re talking about the National Team, where you’re representing your country, you’re in the uniform of your country against other countries."
He added: "... When I see those players stand with their hands over their hearts and sing, whether it’s or U.S. players or it’s Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon singing from the top of his lungs, and see the pride and emotion that comes along with it. From a personal perspective, you’re fulfilling a lifelong dream and there’s an air of responsibility that comes along with it."
You can read some of the reactions to Lalas' recent comments below.