The national anthem protest policy was implemented by the league after U.S. women’s soccer co-captain Megan Rapinoe kneeled before a 2016 match

By Eric Todisco
June 09, 2020 02:28 PM
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The U.S. women's national soccer team is calling on the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) to repeal a policy that forbids players from kneeling during the national anthem.

In the statement, shared on social media, the team says, "We believe the Federation should immediately repeal the 'Anthem Policy,' publish a statement acknowledging the policy was wrong when it was adopted, and issue an apology to our 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 statement continues. "Until USSF does so, the mere existence of the Policy will continue to perpetuate the misconceptions and fear that clouded the true meaning and significance of Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe and other athletes taking a knee that Black people in America have not been and continue to not be afforded the same liberties and freedoms as white people and that police brutality and systemic racism exist in this country."

"This is everybody's responsibility, including this union and its members; we could and should have done more in the past," the team adds. "We are committed to rising up against racist, hateful and unjust acts to effect change. Black lives matter."

USSF did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Sources told ESPN that the USSF's board of directors is considering following through with the repeal. At the urging of president Cindy Parlow Cone, the board will meet via conference call Tuesday to discuss the policy, the source said, followed by a likely formal vote on Friday.

If the policy is repealed, it would take effect immediately, but would still have to be voted on at the next annual general meeting, scheduled to take place in February or March 2021, per ESPN.

The team celebrating Rapinoe’s game-winning goal in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final
| Credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The national anthem policy was implemented after Rapinoe, co-captain of the U.S. women's soccer team, knelt before a 2016 match, inspired by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick, who began the movement that same year during NFL games to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

“I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street,” she wrote in an essay for The Players’ Tribune in 2016. “But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache."

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At the time, Rapinoe, 34, was the first white athlete and the first female athlete to kneel.

USSF, however, fought back against her protest, releasing a statement that it had an “expectation” for its players to stand and later enacted the policy that required them to do so in March 2017.

Rapinoe responded with a statement of her own, agreeing to follow the new rules. “That said, I believe we should always value the use of our voice and platform to fight for equality of every kind,” she said, according to ESPN.