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Bruce Arena defends protests, supports U.S. Soccer’s National Anthem policy

The U.S. Men’s National Team represents the entire nation when it comes to international soccer and, with protests raging on throughout American sports, the topic of the National Anthem remains a hot one with World Cup qualifying approaching.

Bruce Arena is all for players using the singing of the anthem as a time of protest, but also sees why U.S. Soccer has a policy requiring players to stand respectfully as it plays.

“I think the demonstrations by the players are appropriate. I can’t question that,” Arena said, according to Goal USA. “I don’t want to get into a political debate here. The national team’s different. You don’t have to play in the national team. You can choose not to play.

“Those guys are professionals in their club teams. That’s their jobs. They have to be there. Our guys don’t have to be. We have a policy at U.S. Soccer. that our players respect the national anthem. What more can I say?”

U.S. Soccer instituted a policy last February stating that anyone representing the federation at the national team level “shall stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems at any event in which the Federation is represented.”

The move came in response to U.S. Women’s National team player Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the anthem before a match. No specific punishment was named for violating this code, but it would be doled out on a case by case basis.

Arena wasn’t interested in punishing any of his players for taking a knee, however. He’d rather focus on defeating Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

“What do you think I should do? Right then and there take them off the field, burn a few substitutions?” Arena asked. “What happens if four guys take a knee? What do I do?

“If we need to discuss it, we’ll discuss it, but I don’t think that’s an issue we’re going to deal with. We’ve got enough to worry about on Oct. 6 besides kneeling and stuff.”


  1. Well, I understand Arena’s distinction between work and honorary selection to a national team, but the work argument doesn’t hold up for many Americans, either. At work, I probably would be fired if I used time on the job for political demonstration. That’s just how it is, for me and I’m guessing most people. I’m compensated for work I do. If I want to be involved with politics, I’m free to do that, but on my own time.

    Now about the particulars of the NFL protests, apparently the players’ employers take a different view than do my employers. But they are providing entertainment, and the people buying that entertainment seem to want that particular form of entertainment to be a distraction from politics rather than a continuation of politics. I wasn’t the most die-hard NFL fan, but now I can say I couldn’t care less about what happens in those games. That’s not a protest, or a boycott, or anything else other than a personal decision that the league is no longer providing me with the distraction from daily life it once did. So I’ve moved on for now.

  2. How is kneeling during the anthem disrespectful? Are guys sitting at home on the couch during the game disrespecting the flag? When did the flag become a representation of the troops? How is supposed disrespect of a flag/anthem creating more dismay in conservative America than government sanctioned killing of unarmed individuals?

  3. I just don’t see the connection between the issues.
    I mean, if prolife people protested the American flag because of 3,000 abortions a day in America I feel the sides would be completely reversed and the media would be going after the players.

    It was done for shock value. It shocked, Trump shocked everyone by calling out the owners who before this were able to have their cake and eat it to.

    Next week it will be down to the handful of people who did it last year.

  4. it’s hard for everyone to get behind a flag if it represents “police brutality.” i think we can discuss that. (perhaps not here on this soccer blog)

  5. I am a Trump supporter but think that sometimes, I wish he would just be quiet. Now instead of a few people protesting, he has a bunch. And Im sure most are protesting Trump, and not some other cause…if they even know what it is.

    The USNAT team cannot protest during our anthem while representing our country. What message would that send to anybody watching? Rapino did it for a while then after being dropped from the roster for a bit, promised not to do it anymore. Im glad the NATS have this rule and wish the NFL did too. You want to protest something, go hold a sign outside the stadium after the game. Knock yourself out but dont embarrass your country in a WC Qualifier

  6. Arena did have an interesting point to make … the NFL players that take a knee are on the field while doing the job that they’re paid to do. However, the USMNT (and USWNT) players don’t have to participate in order to make a living. Thus, they can just not play with the NT and not really impact their financial position.

    I am against those representing the USA protesting our own national anthem, mostly for this reason: If some of our players kneel during our national anthem, what right do we have to be upset when opponents’ fans also disrespect it (like the US anthem being booed in Mexico)? For club teams and NFL teams, that is VERY different … because those are private businesses. Therefore, the players are free to protest the anthem if they want, their business owners are free to choose to allow the protest or not, and the public is free to decide how to react with their wallet / viewership. This is why I believe the President would’ve been VERY well served to just sit this one out since it doesn’t have anything to do with the President anyway.

  7. Football is on the demise. Before Trump dominated the news with his fiery, insulting, and ignorant rhetoric, Aaron Hernandez’s brain damage was the news for football. Soccer will fill the void when universities and schools start separating themselves with the complicit participation of brain damaging sports, such as football.


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