Before their game on Sunday, the American women's soccer team decided to advocate playing the national anthem. Several players claimed that in the past kneeling was just one phase in their plan to "continuously fight for change".
This was a departure from recent years, when most of the team knelt while the anthem was played. Just a few days earlier, some players had knelt before another game.
The kneeling for the anthem began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick fashioned the move to what he claimed was protesting police brutality against African Americans.
The practice quickly spread to the NFL and eventually the NBA. After George Floyd's death, athletes in other sports – other countries indeed – knelt before the Games.
The women's soccer team and their brand new political activist Megan Rapinoe have apparently decided that their kneeling days are behind them.
The U.S. women's soccer team, which struggled to change the rules so they could kneel for the national anthem, has now decided that kneeling is no longer a cool form of protest and will be back for the anthem. https://t.co/svHw1BNEoT
– Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) February 22, 2021
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Players explain their decision
US defender Crystal Dunn told ESPN on Sunday that the team was "ready to begin a new chapter in advocacy."
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"I think those who knelt together felt like we were kneeling to draw attention to police brutality and systemic racism," Dunn said.
“I think we've decided that in the future we won't have to kneel because we're doing the work behind the scenes. We fight systemic racism. "
The team wore jerseys that said “Black Lives Matter” before the game, but then switched to team jerseys.
Dunn explained her experience as a black athlete herself: "… who often felt like she wasn't heard or seen, and many blacks feel the same way. We had these initial discussions and I feel better about where this team is , but I think that in the future we are ready to just keep working outside the field and have these conversations continuously. "
Copy of Crystal Dunn's remarks on standing during the national anthem: pic.twitter.com/atGDwjbanM
– Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) February 21, 2021
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What has changed?
So why the change of heart? Crystal Dunn says, “We would never kneel forever. There would always be a time when we felt it was time to stand still. "
The entire team did not always agree on this issue.
In a Goal.com report that began in November, all but two players kneeled during the anthem. It wouldn't take time. In the following two games of the team there were four players, three in the following games.
One of the participants, Carli Lloyd, spoke about team members who support one another regardless of their views.
One of the most outspoken members, Megan Rapinoe, wouldn't let her teammates down, but she assumed her view was the “right one” when she suggested, “For players who stand, I would say educate yourself continue. "
Both women's and men's soccer teams pressured the US Football Association to lift the knee ban and received their request with an apology last summer.
What has changed between 2016 and now? What has changed between last Thursday's game, when the players kneeled, and Sunday's game, when everyone stood?
Isn't kneeling cool anymore? Not that soccer in the US is a sport that deserves the revenue or audience figures that the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB get, but it is a business that could be at the root of the fact that soccer suffered the same fate as soccer and basketball in terms of revenue?
The board of directors of American football yesterday voted to repeal Directive 604-1 that requires our players to stand during the national anthem.
Black lives count.
We can do more and we will. pic.twitter.com/wtyfkVZmsB
– US soccer (@ussoccer) June 11, 2020
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The bottom line is that it depends
What happened after not only Kaepernick but the rest of the NFL started kneeling or even staying in the locker room during the anthem?
What fans saw weren't social justice warriors. What they saw was a group of terribly overpaid, spoiled multimillionaires who became so in the only country on earth where they could have achieved so much wealth and success.
In 2016, shortly after Colin Kaepernick started his protests on the field, Forbes reported in a poll in The Sporting News that nearly a third of viewers said they were less likely to watch football on TV because of protests.
The reason is simple. Most sports fans consider their favorite sport to be an escape. We now have a 24 hour news cycle where we can tune in to all kinds of protests, demonstrations and political struggles at any time of the day or night.
There is a constant flood of people trying to convince us to think one way or another, have this opinion about "x-y-z" or something. We play sports because we want to watch talented athletes do things that we cannot do ourselves.
We can only live through it for a few hours. It's just good clean fun.
In the case of the women's national team, the end result may not be financial but political. Megan Rapinoe has a long history of exchanging words with former President Donald Trump.
In 2019, she stated that if the team kept their title, she wouldn't go to the White House.
That sudden change of heart regarding the heavy social justice of kneeling comes in handy after Joe Biden becomes president. Is it the date on the calendar, January 20th, that made the decision to stop kneeling a little easier?
Maybe Dunn is telling the truth and the players are just sick of kneeling on a Sunday.
But the optics seem to say that the “bad orange man is gone” from my point of view. Maybe there is no longer any need to make a scene.
A tweet from someone named "Woody" seemed to be saying what many Americans think.
Guess what ?
We don't care about politics!
Just shut up your hatred!
Play the game without kneeling!
Respect the game!
Megan Rapinoe says "not many, if any" American women soccer players would attend White Househttps: //t.co/WbAnnQNWV0
– O 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 WOODY🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸⭕ (@ Woody35771540) July 6, 2019