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US Soccer to allow players to kneel during anthem

US Soccer to allow players to kneel during anthem
© Getty Images

U.S. Soccer's board of directors voted Wednesday to end the league's ban on kneeling during the national anthem as protests engulf the nation over the death of George Floyd.

The Associated Press reported that board members moved to formally end the ban in a vote during a conference call Wednesday. News that the league was considering doing so was first reported by ESPN earlier this week, with President Cindy Parlow Cone reportedly driving the issue.

The ban was enacted in 2017 after star player Megan Rapinoe knelt during the anthem in solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the practice as a means of protesting police brutality and racism.

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"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respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented," read the rule repealed Wednesday.

The U.S. Soccer Athletes' Council, which represents current and former players, called on the league to abandon the policy and apologize for implementing it earlier this week.

“Then and only then do we feel a new chapter between the USSF and its athletes can begin. Additionally, we urge US Soccer to develop a plan with action items focused on anti-racism that will be shared publicly with its athletes, key stakeholders, and fans,” it said in a statement.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also released a video last week apologizing for not recognizing players' protests against police brutality sooner. Kneeling during the national anthem has been a major point of contention between some team owners and players in the past.

“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” he said

"Without black players there would be no National Football League and the protests across the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff,” Goodell added.

The move comes as protests have erupted around the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. Video of his arrest showed a white officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe.