Republican Congressman Floats Bill Requesting U.S. Soccer Players to Stand for Anthem, Says Soccer Teams 'aren't Essential'

A Florida congressman has introduced a bill that could force U.S. Soccer players to stand during the national anthem just days after the U.S. Soccer Federation repealed the requirement.

On Thursday, congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tweeted he would rather the U.S. did not have a soccer team than "have a team that won't stand for the National Anthem," adding that "You shouldn't get to to play under our flag as our national team if you won't stand for it when it is raised."

A day later, on his Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz podcast, the congressman announced he was drafting legislation compelling U.S. Soccer to reverse its decision to repeal Policy 604-1, which request players to stand for the national anthem.

"Today the news has me triggered," Gaetz said. "The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday to repeal Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem.

"I just could not believe this when I saw it. This is the U.S. National Soccer Team, making the decision that the soccer players who play underneath our flag, do not have to stand for it, as it is being presented."

Introduced in 2017, the policy required players to stand during the playing of the national anthem. The rule was introduced after U.S. Women's National Team star Megan Rapinoe took a knee in 2016 in support of Colin Kaepernick.

The then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback became a global icon four years ago when he first took a knee during the anthem to protest against racial discrimination and police brutality.

The gesture, however, split the public opinion and became a political drum President Donald Trump has banged repeatedly ever since. In response to Rapinoe's show of support, the U.S. Soccer Federation passed a motion requiring all its players to stand for the anthem.

On Wednesday, however, the federation repealed the motion.

"It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter," it said in a statement.

"We have 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. 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."

The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday to repeal Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem.

Black Lives Matter.
We can do more and we will.

— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) June 11, 2020

Gaetz, however, added it was not "essential" for the U.S. to have a soccer team if the team was to "disrespect" the anthem.

"I don't like soccer enough, for the US to even have a soccer team, if that soccer team is going to disrespect our anthem and our flag," the Florida congressman said in a statement released by his office.

"It is not like some essential thing that we have to have, if latched to the U.S. Soccer Team is this sense of such extreme wokeness that we cannot be proud of the United States while wearing the uniform of the United States."

Gaetz also sought to draw a line between the U.S. soccer players' stance of the anthem and Kaepernick's protests, suggesting there was little in common between the two.

"I think this is very distinct from the NFL player kneeling thing," he continued.

"As much as I oppose that and don't like it, at least those are private people, working for a private company ... I certainly think that we have the right to compel that our national team stand for the national anthem."

Gaetz is expected to announce details of the legislation on Saturday on FOX News.

Last week, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis said he would support a fresh set of protests by NFL players in the wake of George Floyd's death.

On Friday, Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien echoed Davis' stance.

"The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are," he said.

"They're not taking a knee because they're against our flag. They're taking a knee because they haven't been treated equally in this country for over 400 years."

Megan Rapinoe, USWNT
Megan Rapinoe (R) kneels during the National Anthem prior to the match between the United States and the Netherlands at Georgia Dome on September 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin C. Cox/Getty