US soccer scraps 'no kneel' anthem policy after vote

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Megan Rapinoe kneels during the US national anthem before a game against the Netherlands in 2016. US Soccer on Saturday formally scrapped a policy requiring players to stand for the anthem

United States Soccer formally scrapped a controversial policy banning players from kneeling during the national anthem on Saturday following a vote of members at the federation's annual meeting.

US Soccer's board of directors repealed the policy last year but the decision required confirmation by the full membership of the ruling body.

At Saturday's meeting, the board's decision to scrap the rule was backed by 71% of voters, with 29% against.

Explaining the decision to repeal the policy last year, US Soccer said the rule was wrong and reflected a failure of the federation to address the concerns of Black people and other minorities.

The rule ordering players to "stand respectfully" for the US national anthem was introduced in 2017.

It came after US women's star Megan Rapinoe took a knee for the anthem at a 2016 international in a gesture of solidarity with former NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

The USSF faced mounting pressure to review the no-kneel policy following the nationwide protests sparked by the death in police custody of unarmed Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.

Kaepernick's take-a-knee protest became an emblematic expression of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement adopted during anti-racism demonstrations around the world.

Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in August 2016 in order to draw attention to racial injustice following the deaths of several unarmed Black men during confrontations with police.