U.S. Soccer held its general meeting Saturday, and it was there the federation unveiled a new policy in its bylaws that is likely to raise some eyebrows.

The policy, which was first sent out on Twitter by Stuart Holden, requires players to “stand respectfully” during the playing of the national anthem when representing a U.S. Soccer national team:


This new policy must be a response to USWNT member Megan Rapinoe’s kneeling protest of systematic discrimination and injustice in America during the playing of the national anthem. Rapinoe followed former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s lead back in September when she first knelt before a NWSL game on Sept. 4.

She then continued the protest when playing for the USWNT on Sept. 19 ahead of their game with Thailand.

U.S. Soccer spoke out against Rapinoe’s actions at the time, going so far as to issue a press release expressing the federation’s disapproval of the act before the game against Thailand had even finished:

“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.”

However, the federation elected not to punish Rapinoe for her protest, likely in part because there was no explicit rule saying she was not allowed to do this in the first place. That changes now that the federation has passed this bylaw.

Still, it is yet unclear what the punishment for violating this provision will be. U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said that there are no predetermined consequences for violation of this bylaw, and it sounds like the federation will mete out discipline on a case-by-case basis:


The lack of preset punishment will allow the federation flexibility in deciding how severely it will deal with future anthem protests. But the lack of notice will also likely ensure any punishment that is handed out will come across to fans, media, and the players as an arbitrary exercise of the federation’s power. U.S. Soccer will need to tread carefully so as not to set off a public relations firestorm with this new policy.

One might also interpret Gulati’s statement as meaning the federation is bluffing with this provision, and just hoping that no one calls them on it. Either way, this will make for an interesting subplot in future U.S. Soccer national games.

As a post-script, U.S. Soccer just sent out a release detailing rule changes, and the anthem-protest policy is not among them. You can read the release here.

About Ben Sieck

Ben is a recent graduate of Butler University where he served as Managing Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Butler Collegian. He currently resides in Indianapolis.