ESPN Slams New U.S. Soccer Rule Preventing Anthem Protests as ‘Anti-American’

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 15: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the U.S. Women's National Team kneels during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem before a match against Thailand on September 15, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

On Monday, ESPN lashed out at U.S. Soccer’s new rule requiring players to respectfully stand for the national anthem, calling the edict “Anti-American” and “anti-soccer.”

Writing on ESPNFC, Chris Jones claims, “When U.S. Soccer introduced its misguided anthem rule on Saturday – ‘All persons must stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented’—it tarnished both the country and the game.

“New Policy 604-1 isn’t just anti-American. It’s anti-soccer.”

Jones continued to say:

Even the NFL – that other football federation, the sports association that most proudly wraps itself in the American flag — didn’t punish Colin Kaepernick when he first sat and then kneeled during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” nor did it sanction any of his fellow players who followed suit.

“The same league that thinks taunting is worthy of a 15-yard penalty saw its employees expressing themselves during the anthem and decided that was their right.

“Encouraged but not required to stand,” the NFL said.

“Shall stand respectfully,” U.S. Soccer now says.

It’s important to note that the NFL couldn’t have punished Colin Kaepernick because NFL rules don’t require a player to stand for the national anthem. Had a rule requiring athletes to stand been in place, the NFL might very well have penalized him. Instead, the NFL must wait at least until the offseason, if not the next CBA negotiation, before instituting a rule which gives them legal standing to block Kaepernick’s protest.

So, the point that the NFL “didn’t stop Kaepernick” doesn’t necessarily mean the NFL endorsed Kaepernick’s protest.

Jones then goes on to point out the hypocrisy he believes this policy creates considering how members of Team USA have gone unpunished for making “political statements” about their own teammates in the past.

Jones says, “This is the same organization that failed to sanction either Tim Howard or Abby Wambach when both made not-so-thinly veiled arguments against the inclusion of foreign-born players on national teams.

“According to U.S. Soccer, then, you can make political statements about your teammates, but you can’t make political statements about your country.”

Well, unless Howard or Wambach accused the foreign-born players of swelling the prison population, becoming dependent on welfare/public assistance, or taking agricultural or construction jobs away from hard-working Americans, those are not political statements.

Some people have a huge problem with someone born outside the country playing on Team USA. Some couldn’t care less. Either way, that’s just simply an opinion, and in no way political in nature. Now, if Wambach and Howard said they wanted to build a wall to keep the foreign-born players out…

Jones continues, “Nobody appears to have asked for this new rule. In the five months since Rapinoe’s protest, there haven’t been complaints about the rampant disrespect American soccer players have been showing during the anthem.

“More importantly, nobody can make a really solid, rational argument for why players must stand respectfully or otherwise, at least one that isn’t instantly invalidated by a photograph of Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos and their raised fists in 1968.”

While no one would say our current day and age is without difficulty, it’s definitely not 1968 either. So that could be an argument couldn’t it? No early, post-segregation environment, no Vietnam War. Is poverty still an issue for millions of black people in America? Sure, but maybe it would be more instructive to go ask former President Obama why he focused on redistribution during his eight years in office?

According to the Washington Times, under Obama the black labor force participation rate fell from 63.2% in 2009 to 61.2% in July of last year, in addition to black home ownership falling from 46.1% in 2009 to just 41.7% in July of last year.

Maybe addressing that, would be more productive than focusing on how awesome it is to kneel at a soccer game?

Also specious is the claim that American soccer players have no complaints about “rampant disrespect” shown towards the anthem. The owner of Megan Rapinoe’s club team, the Washington Spirit, had serious issues with her anthem protests, and took action.

Secondly, the only reason why people haven’t spoken more forcefully about the disrespect by American soccer players is because we’ve been too busy focusing on the disrespect shown by American football players. If soccer were even one-third as popular as football, the outrage would have been more severe. So, the lack of outrage has less to do with people thinking it’s okay to kneel during the national anthem, and much more to do with the fact that very few people have any idea who Megan Rapinoe is.

When a player puts on the uniform of Team USA, he/she represents the United States. It’s in no way disrespectful or “anti-American” to ask players to show respect for the 49 seconds it takes for the anthem to play out while they represent the Stars & Stripes.

The better question is why a person who would rather kneel than stand for the anthem would want to represent their country in the first place?

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn


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