The United States women's national team called for the immediate repeal of U.S. Soccer's "Anthem Policy," in a statement released on Monday.
The USWNT also asked for a "statement acknowledging the [anthem] policy was wrong," as well as an "apology to our Black players and supporters."
"The Federation should immediately repeal the 'Anthem Policy,' publish a statement acknowledging the policy was wrong when it was adopted, and issue an apology to our Black players and supporters," the USWNT players wrote. "Further, we believe the Federation should lay out its plans on how it will now support the message and movement it tried to silence four years ago."
The USWNT's sentiment has been echoed by the U.S. Soccer Athlete Council, an important voting faction within the federation that also feels that repealing the policy is a must–and not the final step to take, either.
"The Athlete Council strongly encourages the Board of Directors to repeal policy 604-1, the anthem policy," the group wrote in a statement. "We understand the voting membership of U.S. Soccer will have the final say on this policy and we hope they will join us in our quest to allow an athlete to peacefully protest. While provisionally repealing the policy is a start for U.S. Soccer, there is a clear lack of trust between the Athletes and the leadership. In order for a positive relationship to exist going forward, we feel U.S. Soccer should apologize and offer an admission of wrongdoing. Then and only then do we feel a new chapter between the USSF and its athletes can begin.
"Additionally, we urge U.S. Soccer to develop a plan with action items focused on anti-racism that will be shared publicly with its athletes, key stakeholders, and fans. One meeting among athletes is not going to fix all problems. With that in mind we would like to invite the members of our women’s and men’s players associations and members of our Extended National Teams to engage with the Athlete Council on a consistent and continued basis to inspire and ignite change."
USWNT midfielder Megan Rapinoe first kneeled during the national anthem at a 2016 match against Thailand. She kneeled in support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began to kneel in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. U.S. Soccer then issued a policy against kneeling in 2017, stating, "All persons representing a Federation national team shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented."
The U.S. Soccer Federation will meet on Tuesday to discuss potentially repealing the anthem policy, per ESPN.
The potential repeal of the kneeling policy comes amid worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. Floyd was stopped by officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes before his death. Floyd can be seen on video saying "I can't breathe," several times before his death.
Chauvin was fired and is being charged with second-degree murder. The three other officers present during Floyd's death face charges of aiding and abetting murder.