U.S. Soccer revealed a new federation policy on Saturday that requires all players, coaches and anyone involved with a national team to “stand respectfully” during any national anthem. The new rule comes after Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the Star Spangled Banner last fall to protest racial oppression in the United States.
The federation’s policy upset some fans and followers, who thought it flew in the face of the freedoms that the U.S. guarantees to its citizens. Others believe it is a wise move and that anyone representing the country should show it a particular kind of respect.
Former U.S. international and FOX Sports analyst Alexi Lalas sides with the latter, and he thinks the federation should go even further.
U.S. Soccer has the right to do this. The question is, is it the right thing to do, and I say 100 percent. It is a privilege, it is an honor, it is a choice to represent your country, and it comes with responsibilities and expectations. And I know nowadays sometimes the national anthem is viewed as background noise or as a reminder to some about the problems, the real problems, that we have as a country. But I look at is as a unique moment, when we come together, we honor and we celebrate being citizens of the greatest country in the world, and I think it is a tradition that should be preserved.
I have been in stadiums where I stood for the anthem and everybody has booed, where flags have been burned, where I have been called every name in the book. I have never served in the military, I have represented my country on the field, and I know that pales in comparison to the men and women in our armed forces that serve our country and some that paid that ultimate price.
So damn right I am going to stand, I’m going to put my hand over my heart and I’m going to sing. And I believe that all U.S. national team players should be required to do that. Just because we live in the land of the free doesn’t mean that we are free to do anything that we want.
Players will only have to stand and, presumably, face the flag during the national anthem. The policy makes no mention of singing or placing one’s hand over their heart. That is notable because Jozy Altidore, one of the men’s team’s stars, has said that while he loves the country and respects it, his religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness keep him from putting his hand over his heart.
The policy has gone into effect immediately and extends to all of the federation’s teams. The debate around the anthem, and both what players should do and what the federation should dictate, is not going anywhere, but it’s plenty clear with where Lalas stands. He wants to see plays standing, hand over heart, and singing. And he thinks that should all be required.