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NWSL players kneel for national anthem, wear Black Lives Matter shirts

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NWSL players took a knee for the national anthem and wore shirts to support the Black Lives Matter movement as the top-flight of women’s soccer in North America returned on Saturday in Utah.

[ MORE: Latest NWSL news ]

The NWSL Challenge Cup kicked off amid plenty of focus as the first major sports league in the USA to resume play during the coronavirus pandemic.

All 22 players took a knee for the national anthem before kick, as players all wore shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Check out video of the scenes in Utah below, as several USWNT stars were in action during the first game of the month-long tournament between the North Carolina Courage and the Portland Thorns.

The tournament was supposed to feature all nine NWSL teams but the Orlando Pride pulled out of the competition after several players tested positive for COVID-19 after reportedly not following social-distancing guidelines in Florida.

This NWSL anthem kneel will grab plenty of headlines as the players took a stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and united as one.

Once again the NWSL and the USWNT lead the way in the fight against racism and inequality.

FIFA urge ‘tolerance’ after Trump’s comments on U.S. Soccer anthem policy

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FIFA have urged ‘tolerance, respect and common sense’ after President Donald Trump slammed the US Soccer Federation (USSF) as USMNT and USWNT players will now be allowed to kneel for the national anthem.

US Soccer decided to repeal their anthem policy for the USMNT and USWNT

In 2017 the USSF decided to bring in the policy which forced players from both the USWNT and USMNT to stand for the anthem after Megan Rapinoe took a knee to join Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and inequality in the Black community in the United States of America.

[ MORE: Reaction to new anthem policy ]

Trump responded by saying he “won’t be watching much anymore” and shared comments made by Republican Matt Gaetz who is trying to force through a bill which would make the players stand for the anthem and said he’d rather not have a US Soccer national team if players do not stand.

The Associated Press asked FIFA about Trump’s comments and here is the statement world soccer’s governing body released.

“FIFA strongly advocates for tolerance, mutual respect and common sense when such important matters are debated. FIFA has a zero-tolerance approach to incidents of all forms of discrimination in football, as outlined in the FIFA Statutes. We must all say no to racism and no to violence.”

US Soccer reversed its decision in a board meeting last week, as board members voted in favor of repealing the anthem policy, even though it is believed the voted wasn’t unanimous.

This is the statement US Soccer released on its new anthem policy as they apologized to players from both the USMNT and USWNT:

“The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality, and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of color in America. It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter.

“We have not done enough to listen – especially to our players – to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country. We apologize to our players – especially our Black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism, Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.”

President Trump says he will not watch U.S. Soccer

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President Trump has revealed he will not watch US national soccer teams due to the decision by US Soccer to repeal their anthem policy for the USMNT and USWNT.

[ MORE: Reaction to new anthem policy ]

In 2017 the US Soccer Federation (USSF) decide to bring in an policy which forced players from both the USWNT and USMNT to stand for the anthem after Megan Rapinoe took a knee to join Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and inequality in the Black community in the United States of America.

Trump sent out the following Tweets late Saturday:

Trump also shared the thoughts of Republican Matt Gaetz who said: “I’d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won’t stand for the National Anthem. You shouldn’t get to play under our flag as our national team if you won’t stand when it is raised.”

Gaetz also added “I don’t care enough about soccer to have a US Soccer team that disrespects the flag they play under” and he wants to pass a bill that requires the teams to stand for the national anthem. 

“If players are playing for our national team…they should stand for the anthem, they should respect our flag,” Gaetz said.

USMNT, USWNT react to U.S. Soccer anthem policy repeal

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The United States Soccer Federation’s Board of Directors voted to repeal Policy 604-1, which required players to stand during the national anthem, and players and key figures surrounding the USMNT and USWNT have shared their reaction.

The anthem policy was put in place by US Soccer in 2017 after Megan Rapinoe knelt in peaceful protest of police brutality and the oppression of people of color in the United States, inspired by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

On Monday the USWNT requested that the USSF repeal the policy. The USSF board who made the decision to repeal the policy includes Parlow Cone, Carlos Bocanegra, Lori Lindsey, Chris Ahrens, Steve Malik, Don Garber, Richard Moeller, John Motta, Pete Zopfi, Tim Turney, and Mike Cullina. It has been reported that the decision was not unanimous.

As for the reaction, the USMNT posted a statement on their Instagram page on the anthem policy change and USMNT and Man City goalkeeper Zack Steffen (currently on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf) posted a comment as the comments section was full of angry commenters who were against the decision.

“These comments are sad man… this doesn’t mean we will definitely kneel during the anthem. This just means that they are living up to what our flag stands for and what our first amendment clearly states, which is the freedom of speech and to peacefully protest. We will do something together as a team to support this movement because too many people still don’t understand,” Steffen said.

Aside from Steffen’s comments, there hasn’t been too much reaction from other players yet but most have already called for the repeal of this anthem policy as the US Soccer athletes’ council called for the anthem policy to change earlier this week.

“Then and only then do we feel a new chapter between the USSF and its athletes can begin. Additionally, we urge US Soccer to develop a plan with action items focused on anti-racism that will be shared publicly with its athletes, key stakeholders, and fans.”

Here’s a look at the reaction from key figures on the decision from US Soccer.

There have also been reports that MLS will not play the national anthem before games at its Orlando tournament from July to August this summer, while the NWSL will play the national anthem before its summer tournament in Utah which kicks off later this month.

U.S. Soccer repeals policy requiring players to stand during anthem

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The United States Soccer Federation’s Board of Directors has voted to repeal Policy 604-1, which required players to stand during the national anthem.

The policy was put in place in 2017 after Megan Rapinoe knelt in peaceful protest of police brutality and the oppression of people of color in the United States, inspired by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Rapinoe first knelt with her NWSL team, the Seattle Reign, and the Washington Spirit played the anthem early so she could not kneel before a match. She then knelt in a USWNT kit and the federation put in the policy, which Rapinoe respected.

[ MORE: New PL schedule ]

The issue of taking a knee has been raised again thanks to widespread protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin and three other officers were arrested and charged.

Athletes all over the world have spoken out against racism and police brutality since the incident, with the Black Lives Matter movement echoing across the world. Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie, an American, put out an emotional video with some of the biggest names in American soccer saying “Enough is enough” interspersed with violent video of police encounters with black people.

Many Premier League teams and players have been issuing anti-racism statements on a daily basis, and Bundesliga stars such as Jadon Sancho, Marcus Thuram, and Achraf Hakimi worked protests into goal celebrations. At the Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg match, American players John Brooks and Josh Sargent (pictured above) took a knee with their teams before kickoff.

Major League Soccer announced that it would support players’ rights to kneel during the anthem at matches this season. Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt said he would be taking a knee when the Premier League returns next week.

The policy was put in place under a different leadership group for U.S. Soccer, and the federation’s statement on the repeal is very clear with CEO Will Wilson (not a board member) and president Cindy Parlow Cone presiding over the operation. A spokesman for U.S. Soccer could not share whether the vote was unanimous as it was conducted in executive session.

The USWNT requested Monday that the USSF repeal the policy.

The USSF board includes Parlow Cone, Carlos Bocanegra, Lori Lindsey, Chris Ahrens, Steve Malik, Don Garber, Richard Moeller, John Motta, Pete Zopfi, Tim Turney, and Mike Cullina.

Here is the full statement:

The U.S. Soccer Federation affirms Black Lives Matter, and we support the fight against racial injustices.

The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday afternoon to repeal Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem. The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality, and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of color in America. It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter.

We have not done enough to listen – especially to our players – to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country. We apologize to our players – especially our Black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism. Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.

It should be, and will be going forward, up to our players to determine how they can best use their platforms to fight all forms of racism, discrimination, and inequality. We are here for our players and are ready to support them in elevating their efforts to achieve social justice. We cannot change the past, but we can make a difference in the future. We are committed to this change effort, and we will be implementing supporting actions in the near future.