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US Soccer president Sunil Gulati needs to show more consistent leadership on political issues

He refused to give a stance on an executive order restricting refugees while taking an inconsistent position on players speaking out.

FIFA Council Meeting - Part II Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

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During the United States men’s national team’s game on Sunday, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati was asked about President Donald Trump’s executive order that bans refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

"Sports obviously involves international movement and free movement of players, of ideas,” said Gulati. “How this plays out in terms of international events, I think that's frankly a secondary issue right now. The issue involving the executive order and its implications are far broader than that,” with “that” referring to a potential United States bid for the 2026 World Cup. But Gulati refused to comment when asked if U.S. Soccer had a position on the executive order.

Gulati was also asked for his opinion on an Instagram post by USMNT captain Michael Bradley, which criticized the executive order. Bradley called Trump’s rhetoric “xenophobic, misogynistic and narcissistic,” then went on to say that the executive order is “just the latest example of someone who couldn’t be more out of touch with our country and the right way to move forward.” Gulati said that he “saw Michael's comments yesterday and they were clearly heartfelt. Absolutely no issue whatsoever."

And that’s great, but they clash with what Gulati had to say in November about Megan Rapinoe’s protest. During multiple USWNT games, she kneeled during the national anthem in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to bring awareness to social injustice in the United States, particularly regarding the mistreatment of people of color by law enforcement.

“There is a right to freedom of speech, she also has the obligations to putting on a national team uniform,” Gulati said. “And we think those are pretty strong when you’re representing the U.S. national team and wearing the crest.”

The optics of the two situations are different — Bradley didn’t offer his comments as part of a protest during the national anthem — but as soccer journalist Leander Schaerlaeckens noted on Twitter, they’re basically the same thing. While many feel the national anthem is off limits as part of a protest, Rapinoe and Bradley have the same message: People in power are acting in a discriminatory manner, it’s not right, and everyone needs to think about how they can do better.

Gulati has repeatedly said that political issues are more important than a World Cup bid, but refuses to take a stance on controversial issues that might alter the Trump administration’s support of that bid. He supported Bradley expressing his political views, but not Rapinoe. It’s not too much to ask Gulati to start leading consistently. Right now, he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Goal of the day

Bernardo Silva’s equalizer for Monaco against PSG. He’s having an amazing season. (r/soccer)

In the news

Dimitri Payet has moved to Marseille for £25 million. (Brace The Hammer)

Sunderland has picked up Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson from Everton. (Roker Report)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s got himself in the news for swearing again. (Marca)

Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta are unlikely to be fit for this week’s Copa del Rey match against Atlético Madrid. (Sport)

Milan’s Mattia De Sciglio will miss a few weeks with an ankle injury. (Football Italia)

The USMNT’s big match against Honduras will take place in San Jose. (Stars and Stripes FC)

You should be reading

Paolo Bandini on Inter Milan’s new coach and their impressive form. (Guardian)

Franco Ficetola on Franck Kessie, an Ivorian wonderkid who might make a move to a big team soon. (Just Football)

David Cowlishaw on the rise of fifth-tier team AFC Fylde. (The Set Pieces)

What happened this weekend

There were a lot of upsets in the FA Cup.

The USMNT struggled, but there were some big positives.

Barcelona dropped points in controversial fashion. (Barca Blaugranes)

Real Madrid won’t mind, they’re back in control of La Liga after winning. (Managing Madrid)

Bayern Munich continues to do juuuust enough in the Bundesliga. (Bavarian Football Works)

Juventus won, capitalizing on Roma and Napoli’s slip ups. (Black and White and Read All Over)