Last Updated: 14/06/20 12:14am
US President Donald Trump has threatened to boycott the NFL and US Soccer if players do not stand for the national anthem before matches.
On Thursday, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) voted to repeal its ban on players kneeling during the national anthem, admitting the policy was “wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter”.
Republican congressman Matt Gaetz was critical of that decision, tweeting: “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.”
Iâ€™d rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that wonâ€™t stand for the National Anthem.
You shouldnâ€™t get to play under our flag as our national team if you wonâ€™t stand when it is raised.
â€” Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 11, 2020
Trump retweeted that message on Saturday, before adding: “I won’t be watching much anymore!”
He then posted: “And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!”
The ban on kneeling during the anthem was originally put in place after US women’s player Megan Rapinoe kneeled during the national anthem in support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
It received heavy backlash from Trump and others who said it was disrespectful to the American flag and the country.
Earlier this week, Trump was also critical of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and accused him of changing the league’s position on players kneeling during the national anthem.
Goodell shared a video message of inclusiveness and racial equality in which he said the NFL will encourage players to speak out and protest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
The NFL has overturned its own policy that called for punishing players who kneeled during the anthem.
NFL players confirm they will take a knee during national anthem
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson has said that he will kneel during the national anthem this season, and he expects plenty of other players to follow suit.
“Years ago, seeing Kaepernick taking a knee, now we’re all ready to take a knee together going into this season without a doubt,” Peterson told the Houston Chronicle.
When asked if he will take a knee, Peterson replied: “Without a doubt, without a doubt.”
Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Friday that he would take a knee with players during the national anthem.
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted on Saturday expressing his support for NFL players who take a knee to protest police brutality.
In response to a someone who said “‘pretty sure you won’t see J.J. Watt taking a knee”, the five-time Pro Bowler replied: “A) don’t speak for me & B) “If you still think it’s about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly haven’t been listening.”
A) donâ€™t speak for me
B) if you still think itâ€™s about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly havenâ€™t been listening https://t.co/tnsEq5D9WC
â€” JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 13, 2020
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield also plans to kneel during the national anthem.
After a fan on an Instagram post pleaded with him not to kneel, Mayfield responded: “Pull your head out. I absolutely am.”
He later added: “It’s more than just a flag. It’s about our country and everyone being treated as equals. I have the upmost respect for our military and people that serve for our freedom.”
Earlier this week, new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski made it clear he would back his players in any peaceful demonstrations.
“My position is I want to make sure I support our players,” Stefanski said. “First thing is first, I want to make sure I sit down with them and talk.
“I can just promise you this, we will spend as much time as needed to make sure that we are all on the same page and we are a united front from a player, staff, you name it (standpoint).”