U.S. Soccer's policy mandating players to stand respectfully for the national anthem passed unanimously at U.S. Soccer's AGM in Hawaii.

By Grant Wahl
March 07, 2017

In the wake of Megan Rapinoe’s kneeling protests last year over police treatment of black Americans, the new U.S. Soccer policy requiring that national team members stand respectfully for national anthems has caused plenty of controversy in the media and among fans. But when it came time to vote, there was no such conflict inside U.S. Soccer, even though several sources said it wasn’t an easy decision.

The decision in favor of the new policy came on a unanimous vote by U.S. Soccer’s 15-member board of directors, which includes three athlete representatives, and then approval by acclamation and without any objection from the National Council, which numbers in the hundreds. What’s more, sources say the largest ovation at last weekend’s U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting in Hawaii came when the new anthem policy was announced.

U.S. national team managers Bruce Arena and Jill Ellis have also publicly given their seals of approval of the new policy since it was revealed by Fox Sports's Stuart Holden over the weekend.

Rapinoe, herself, released a statement to the AP that she will respect the new policy at national team games going forward, saying: "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."

Elsewhere in the soccer world:

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Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer says his role has changed now that Carlo Ancelotti is in charge of the team.

“I’m not a sweeper keeper like last few years,” Neuer said in a recent sit-down interview. “Now it is a different game for us. We try to play compact and we try to have a good formation in the defense. But we are not [as much] in the first line as we were before under [former manager] Pep Guardiola. We have a little bit more space, up forward to the goal, the opponents’ goal. And we can use the space for our strikers and right and left backs, so that they can overlap the players and come with crosses. That’s the new strategy with the new manager.”  

Neuer said he enjoys aspects of the strategy switch.

“I can speak much more to my players in front of me because of this, and it’s closer. I can reach the midfielders. It was impossible before to reach a midfielder when you shout and try to help them with something. And that’s different and again a new job for me.”

Neuer added that he gets back into sweeper keeper mode when he rejoins the German national team.

Meanwhile, a source close to Bayern management says that the club is feeling much better about Ancelotti now than it was before the winter break. The 5-1 Champions League win in the first leg of the round of 16 against Arsenal helped, but so, too, has Bayern’s run to a seven-point lead in the Bundesliga.

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