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U.S. Soccer institutes policy requiring players to ‘stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems’

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Megan Rapinoe’s protest has led to a formal policy, and it doesn’t have a stated punishment.

Netherlands v United States Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On Saturday, at U.S. Soccer’s annual general meeting, the federation unveiled a new policy requiring all players to stand for national anthems. This comes in the wake of a protest by United States women’s national team player Megan Rapinoe, who kneeled during the anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and other athletes to protest systemic injustice in America.

Fox Soccer’s Stuart Holden tweeted this photo with the policy from the AGM.

Holden added that there is no stated punishment in this new policy.

Rapinoe first kneeled during the anthem during an NWSL game on September 4. She did it again while in a national team shirt on September 15. Following the USWNT’s game against Thailand, U.S. Soccer released a statement on the protest, containing this line.

“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.”

Because the federation had no stated policy at the time, they had no way to punish Rapinoe without risking a legal challenge. Rapinoe has been called up to the national team since her protest, but is not in the squad for the SheBelieves tournament, which is currently taking place.

U.S. Soccer didn’t appear to understand the protest when it happened, and USSF president Sunil Gulati has shown inconsistent leadership when it comes to political issues since. The lack of a stated punishment for violation of the new anthem policy seems likely to lead to more criticism of Gulati’s leadership, to say nothing of the policy itself.