U.S. Women’s Soccer Team No Longer Kneels For National Anthem – What Changed?

Before their match on Sunday, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team decided to stand for the playing of the national anthem, with several players claiming that past kneeling was just one phase in their plan to ‘continuously fight for change.’

This was a departure from the past several years, where most of the team kneeled while the anthem was played. Just days earlier, some players had knelt before another match.

Kneeling for the anthem began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the move fashionable to, as he claimed, protest police brutality against African-Americans.

The practice quickly spread throughout the NFL and eventually the NBA. After the death of George Floyd, athletes in other sports – indeed in other countries – began kneeling before games.

The Women’s Soccer Team, and their firebrand political activist Megan Rapinoe, has apparently decided their kneeling days are behind them. 

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Players Explains Their Decision

U.S. Defender Crystal Dunn told ESPN on Sunday said that the team was “ready to move on to a new chapter of their advocacy.”

“I think those that were collectively kneeling felt like we were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism,” Dunn said.

“I think we decided that moving forward we no longer feel the need to kneel because we are doing the work behind the scenes. We are combating systemic racism.”

The team wore shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” before the game, but then changed into team jerseys. 

Dunn explained her experience as a black athlete herself, “…who has often felt like I’ve not been heard or not been seen, and many Black people feel the same way. We’ve had those initial discussions and I feel better about where this team is, but I do think moving forward, we’re prepared to just continue working off the field and continuously having these conversations.”

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What Changed?

So why the change of heart? Crystal Dunn says that, “we were never going to kneel forever. There was always going to be a time that we felt it was time to stand.”

The entire team was not always unified on this issue.

In a report from Goal.com, starting in November, all but two players knelt during the anthem. That would not last. In the team’s two subsequent matches, four players stood, three stood in the following matches.

One of those that stood, Carli Lloyd, talked about team members supporting each other regardless of their views.

One of the most outspoken members, Megan Rapinoe, would not abandon her fellow team members who stood, but she made the assumption that her view was the “correct” one when she made the suggestion that, “For players that are standing I would say, continue to educate yourself.”

Both the women’s and men’s soccer teams pressured the governing body, U.S. Soccer to rescind a ban on kneeling and got their wish last summer, complete with an apology.

So what changed between 2016 and now? Indeed, what changed between last Thursday’s match, where players knelt, and Sunday’s match, where all stood? 

Is kneeling no longer cool? Not that soccer is a sport in the U.S. that earns the revenue or viewership that the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB do, but it is a business, could the root of it been that soccer was suffering the same fate as football and basketball in terms of revenue?

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The Bottom Line Is What Matters

What happened after not just Kaepernick, but the rest of the NFL began to kneel, or even stay in the locker room during the anthem?

What fans saw was not social justice warriors. What they saw was a bunch of horribly overpaid, pampered multimillionaires who became that way in the only country on earth where they could have achieved that much wealth and success.

In 2016, shortly after Colin Kaepernick began his on field protests, Forbes reported on a poll in “The Sporting News” that nearly one third of viewers said they were less likely to watch football on TV because of protests.

Why? 

The reason is simple. Most sports fans view their favorite sport as an escape. We now have a 24-hour news cycle in which we can turn on all manner of protest, demonstration, and political battle at all hours of the day and night.

There is a constant barrage of people who want to persuade us to think this way or that, have this opinion on “x-y-z” or that. We turn on sports because we want to watch talented athletes do things we cannot do ourselves. 

For just a few hours, we get to live vicariously through them. It is just some good clean fun.

In the case of the Womens’ National Team, perhaps the bottom line is not financial but political. Megan Rapinoe has a history of exchanging words with former President Donald Trump.

In 2019, she stated that if the team retained their title, she was not going to the White House.

This sudden change of heart in regards to doing the heavy social justice lifting of kneeling has come conveniently after Joe Biden has become president. Is it the date on the calendar, January 20, that made the decision to no longer kneel a bit easier?

Maybe Dunn is telling the truth, and the players just got tired of kneeling one Sunday.

But the optics seem to say that the ‘bad orange man is gone’ from my point of view. Perhaps making a scene is no longer needed.

A tweet by someone named “Woody” seemed to say what many Americans think.



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