CHICAGO — The U.S. women's national team wants the U.S. Soccer Federation to repeal the anthem policy it instituted after Megan Rapinoe started kneeling during the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The U.S. women's team also wants the federation to state publicly that the policy was wrong and issue an apology to the team's black players and supporters.
“Further, we believe the Federation should lay out its plans on how it will now support the message and movement that it tried to silence four years ago,” the U.S. women's team said in a statement posted on the Twitter feed of its players association Monday night.
Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem at a pair of national team matches in 2016. She said she wanted to express solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who silently took a knee during the national anthem before NFL games to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice.
The U.S. Soccer Federation then approved a policy in February 2017 that stated players “shall stand respectfully” during national anthems. The policy remains in place, though the unions for the men's and women's teams believe it doesn't apply to their players because of their collective bargaining agreements.
Prior to the USWNT's demand, ESPN reported that U.S. Soccer may vote as early as Friday on whether to repeal the rule.
Kaepernick and Rapinoe each faced sharp criticism for the protest for years. But public sentiment has changed since George Floyd's death last month.
Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and saying that he couldn’t breathe. His death sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the country, some of which became violent.
A lawyer for the men's team union also called for the repeal of the policy and an apology in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, which was the first to report on the U.S. women's statement.
A message was left by the AP seeking comment from the federation.
TEGNA Staff contributed to this report.