The U.S. Soccer Federation voted to reverse a rule that required players to stand during the national anthem. "U.S. Soccer affirms Black Lives Matter, and we support the fight against racial injustices," a Wednesday statement said.
The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted to repeal Policy 604-1, which prohibited players from kneeling during the national anthem.
"The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality, and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of color in America," the U.S. Soccer Federation said. "It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter."
The U.S. Soccer Federation said it had "not done enough to listen — especially to our players — to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country."
"We apologize to our players — especially our Black players — staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism," the federation said. "Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.
"It should be, and will be going forward, up to our players to determine how they can best use their platforms to fight all forms of racism, discrimination, and inequality," the statement said. "We are here for our players and are ready to support them in elevating their efforts to achieve social justice.
"We cannot change the past, but we can make a difference in the future," the statement concluded. "We are committed to this change effort, and we will be implementing supporting actions in the near future."
Rapinoe kneeled during the national anthem at an international match in September 2016. The gesture was to show solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" before San Francisco 49ers preseason games before the 2016 NFL season.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick explained in August 2016 as his reason for the kneeling. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
"It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he's standing for right now. I think it's actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn't," Rapinoe said in September 2016. "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."
Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier" following the backlash over George Floyd's death while in Minneapolis police custody.
"We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Goodell said. "We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.
"I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no National Football League, and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of black players, coaches, fans, and staff," Goodell added. "We are listening, I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family."
Last week, New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees and his wife issued several apologies for making statements that condemned kneeling during the national anthem.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly castigated players who kneel during the national anthem. Most famously, President Trump said in 2017: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a b***h off the field right now?"
"You know," Trump added. "Some owner's gonna do that. He's gonna say that guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired."