U.S. Soccer adds new policy requiring players to stand during national anthem

Megan Rapinoe
Rapinoe kneeled during the national anthem before two September friendlies. (Getty Images)

U.S. Soccer has added a new policy to its bylaws that requires players to “stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the federation is represented,” FOX Sports analyst Stuart Holden, a former men’s national teamer and current member of the federation’s Athletes’ Council, reported on Saturday.

The new policy was passed by the Board of Directors on Feb. 9.

The move is an apparent measure against women’s national team member Megan Rapinoe’s decision to kneel during the anthem before two national team games in September, in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting racial injustice. She had also kneeled before games of her Seattle Reign NWSL team.

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U.S. Soccer had made it clear then that it expected all of its players to stand, an edict that Rapinoe initially ignored. She hasn’t been with the national team much since as she comes back from a major injury.

Now, refusing to stand violates federation bylaws.

There is no predetermined guideline on punishment for breaking the rule.

The women’s national team players had been unaware that the new rule had been approved, according to a statement by the players’ spokesman to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.

Following the USA’s surprising 1-0 loss to England on Saturday, head coach Jill Ellis endorsed the new rule.

“I’ve always felt that that should be what we do, honor the country, have the pride of putting on the national team jersey,” Ellis said. “I think that should be the expectation. That’s our workplace out there and I think we should represent ourselves and our country, so I’m pleased with that.”

Team co-captain Carli Lloyd first learned about the new rule after Saturday’s game. “I’ll have to read up and see,” she said. “It is what it is.”

The team’s other captain Becky Sauerbrunn was also unaware. “That’s the first that I’ve heard of it,” she said. “I heard that there was a policy in the making but I didn’t know that it passed. OK, there’s a policy now. There’s a policy that comes from up high, so you follow the policy or you don’t follow the policy.”

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.