By Ken Reed

In the wake of women’s national team member Megan Rapinoe’s decision to kneel during the national anthem last September in protest of injustices she was seeing in the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation has issued a new rule REQUIRING all players to “stand respectfully” during the Star Spangled Banner.

If you took the “U.S.” part out, and inserted “Syria” or “North Korea” in front of “Soccer Federation” you would understandably think the new rule had been passed down from dictators Bashar al-Assad and Kim Jong-un.

What happened to the First Amendment, the thing that more than anything else separates us from Syria and North Korea?

As a country, we’ve always cherished the freedoms we have relative to citizens of other countries. Allowing our athletes to kneel during the national anthem — if that is what their consciences are moving them to do — sends a symbolic message to the rest of the world that says, “We value the free speech rights of our citizens more than we do their postures during our national anthem.”

Personally, I think it’s appropriate to stand during the national anthem, for a variety of reasons, but I also support my fellow citizens’ First Amendment right to do otherwise.

I also would prefer that U.S. Soccer spent more time figuring out ways to pay the men’s and women’s national teams equally, than worrying about whether players stand or kneel during the Star Spangled Banner. To me, equal pay for equal work is a more important American value than how erect one stands during the national anthem.

We’re better than this silly national anthem policy from U.S. Soccer. We’re Americans.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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