(Reuters) – The U.S. women’s national team has called on the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) to repeal a policy forbidding players from kneeling during the national anthem and issue an apology to black players and fans.
The USSF will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to consider scrapping the rule, which requires players to “stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented”.
Kneeling has become a symbol of the fight against police brutality used by protesters who have flooded the streets of U.S. cities following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
“The Federation should immediately repeal the ‘Anthem Policy’, publish a statement acknowledging the policy was wrong when it was adopted, and issue an apology to our black players and supporters,” said the statement issued by the United States Women’s National Team Players Association on Monday.
“Further, we believe the Federation should lay out its plans on how it will now support the message and movement it tried to silence four years ago.”
The USSF told Reuters in an email earlier on Monday that a vote could come following Tuesday’s conference call, or on Friday at the quarterly executive board meeting.
The policy was put in place in 2017 after USWNT player Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the playing of the anthem prior to a match against Thailand the previous year.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularised the gesture of kneeling during pre-game renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 2016 while a member of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
The move by the USSF to reconsider its position comes after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week the league had made a mistake by not listening to players and encouraged them to speak out and protest peacefully.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto and Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Ken Ferris and Peter Rutherford)