U.S. Soccer Bans Players Anthem Protests

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March 4 (UPI) — U.S. Soccer’s governing body passed a new rule requiring all players to stand during the national anthem after a veteran player on U.S. Women’s National Team the  joined other athletes’ protests by kneeling before a game last summer.

The rule, which was passed in February, was first reported Saturday by Fox Sports. The bylaw states all players on a U.S. national team must “stand respectfully” during the Star-Spangled Banner.

The issue was brought to the fore after veteran midfielder Megan Rapinoe took a knee before a friendly match against Thailand last summer.

Rapinoe said she was protesting in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback whose refusal to leave the bench to stand on the sideline with his San Francisco 49ers teammates sparked a national debate. Kaepernick said the gesture was meant to protest racial injustice and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Rapinoe said her actions were also in suport of Black Lives Matter and LGBT equality.

While the U.S. Soccer rule has gone into effect, officials confirmed to NBC Sports there is no specified punishment for players who refuse to stand during the anthem.

Rapinoe was part of the 2015 U.S. World Cup winning team, but was not named to the 2017 squad.

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