Protesting the National Anthem doesn’t mean you are less American

In this Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, USA's Megan Rapinoe, right, kneels next to teammates Ali Krieger (11) and Crystal Dunn (16) as the U.S. national anthem is played before an exhibition soccer match against Netherlands, in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/AP)

Freedom is the most valued thing in the United States. It’s in the Constitution, it’s in our most iconic landmark and it’s a core value that defines this country.  People have fought to maintain that freedom.

But within that freedom, there is also the freedom to protest when you feel something needs to be changed.

The United States Soccer Federation Board of directors passed a new policy on Feb. 9.

This policy, named policy 604-1 reads: “All person representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented.”

Protesting has always been part of America. The Patriots protested unfair British rule centuries ago. In the same way, sports have always been an avenue to protest. Sports cannot stand in isolation when there’s political and social turmoil.

The new wave of protesting the national anthem started with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He knelt during a preseason game to protest racial inequality in the United States.

U.S. Women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe, who has been part of the gold medal and world cup teams, took a knee during an NWSL game between the Seattle Reign and the Chicago Red Stars on Sep. 4.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful,” Rapinoe said in an article by The Guardian.

Rapinoe didn’t do this because she hates America. She did it because she recognizes the need for a discussion that will lead to change and make America better for all its people.

Rapinoe has proudly represented the United States internationally. She wrapped herself in the flag after the final whistle in the 2015 World Cup Final between the United States and Japan, with tears of joy rolling down her face as she looked at the USA fans.

Protesting doesn’t make you less American.

No consequence or punishment has been outlined in the case where a player disregards the policy.

Sports Illustrated writer and Fox Sports contributor Grant Wahl wrote that the decision to instill the new rule was unanimous; no one challenged it.

Rapinoe told the AP that she would abide by the new rule and represent her country at the highest level.

"It is an honor to represent the USA and all that we stand for—to be able to pull on the red, white and blue to play a game that I love. I will respect the new bylaw the leadership at USSF has put forward. That said, I believe we should always value the use of our voice and platform to fight for equality of every kind,” Rapinoe told the AP. 

The Federation didn’t say anything when U.S. soccer icons Abby Wambach and Tim Howard raised their voices protesting the inclusion of foreign-born players in the national team. Nor did they respond when defender Geoff Cameron voiced support of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

This is because they had the freedom to voice their opinions on those issues, just like other players have the right to voice their concern about racial issues in America.

Those who are offended by someone kneeling during the national anthem under the premise that fellow Americans sacrifice their lives for our freedom, must understand that freedom doesn’t only protect the opinions we like.

Freedom to engage in a discourse and protest things we feel are wrong are also protected under that. This policy is anti-American.

ESPN journalist Thomas Quinn once said sports are part of someone’s identity. That’s why it can’t be separated from politics, or social issues.

The WNBA stood for Black Lives Matter, the Miami Heat posted a picture with the caption, “#WeareTrayvonMartin.” Six Patriots players will be skipping the White House visit.

Sports can create dialogue for these issues be a way to improve society in different aspects. US soccer shouldn’t try to stop the dialogue from happening.


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.