U.S. Soccer called playing on the national team a “privilege” and explained its “expectation” that athletes stand for the national anthem.
The statement comes in response to women’s national team player Megan Rapinoe taking a knee before a game Thursday night against Thailand. Rapinoe stood in respect for Thailand’s national anthem but went down on one knee for “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Rapinoe similarly protested the anthem during a National Women’s Soccer League game. But Thursday night marked the debut of her demonstration against the United States while wearing the uniform of the United States team.
Rapinoe told ESPN she seeks “social justice.” She said, after admitting she lives in a very white world, that “this is how I can be an ally in this space.”
U.S. Soccer’s statement read:
Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer’s National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer. In front of national and often global audiences, the playing of our national anthem is an opportunity for our Men’s and Women’s National Team players and coaches to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country. 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.
The Americans won the exhibition match 9-0 over Thailand. Rapinoe didn’t start but played in the second half.
“As of now,” Rapinoe told ESPN, “I plan to keep kneeling.”