Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) says he plans to introduce a bill that would require U.S. soccer players to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Earlier this week, the U.S. Soccer Federation repealed its 2017 requirement that players stand during the Star-Spangled Banner.
The rule went into effect after women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem in solidarity with quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. But this past week, the soccer federation repealed the rule, leading Gaetz to wonder whether the U.S. would be better off without a soccer team at all.
I’d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won’t stand for the National Anthem.
You shouldn’t get to play under our flag as our national team if you won’t stand when it is raised.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 11, 2020
Gaetz skewered the federation, saying they should “just go full woke and remove the ‘U.S.’ altogether.” And he tweeted “Defund U.S. Soccer!”
“I don’t like soccer enough, for the US to even have a soccer team, if that soccer team is going to disrespect our anthem and our flag,” Gaetz said in a rambling statement released by his office. “It is not like some essential thing that we have to have, if latched to the US Soccer Team is this sense of such extreme wokeness that we cannot be proud of the United States while wearing the uniform of the United States.
“I think this is very distinct from the NFL player kneeling thing,” he continued. “As much as I oppose that and don’t like it, at least those are private people, working for a private company…I certainly think that we have the right to compel that our national team stand for the national anthem.”
I take the Founders at their word when they wrote: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” It’s really quite simple. That statement includes speech you don’t agree with, hate, are disgusted with, enraged by, or think is crazy — all of which could describe kneeling for the anthem.
If people want to demonstrate their ignorance and lack of empathy by kneeling for the national anthem, let them. They appear small and insignificant. Those who push back — Gaetz and, most notably Donald Trump — are only giving them what they want; attention. They are being feted as American heroes for exercising their constitutionally-guaranteed rights — something the rest of us do every day and for which we do not expect to be made a hero.
If you or I want to call Rapinoe and Kapernick names, criticize them, tell them to shut up, advocate for their dismissal, that, too, is constitutionally protected speech. But Gaetz is wrong. Congress should not involve itself in matters of free speech, no matter how angry that speech makes us.
As a private federation, U.S. Soccer was well within its rights to ban kneeling during the anthem. They also have the right to lift that ban if they choose. They’re ignoramuses if they do, but they’re not violating any law.
I agree with Gaetz. Why not go full, 100 percent woke and remove the “U.S.” from your name? It would please the same kind of people who are cheering on Rapinoe and others taking a knee.