Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) announced he would draft legislation in Congress requiring that U.S. Soccer players stand for the national anthem. This is exactly the type of leadership needed in this country, especially since there’s nothing of public interest going on, like a nationwide uprising to end police brutality and systemic racism; the worst worldwide pandemic since the Spanish flu; or an economic crisis that has left more than 20 million Americans unemployed.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Soccer Federation voted to repeal its three-year-old rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem, which was put in place after Megan Rapinoe began kneeling in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick in 2016. It appears that Gaetz, a lawyer, is not a fan of the First Amendment, which already covers this issue, and he’s not even a soccer fan either.
“I don’t like soccer enough, for the U.S. to even have a soccer team, if that soccer team is going to disrespect our anthem and our flag,” Gaetz said on his podcast. “It is not like some essential thing that we have to have, if latched to the U.S. 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.”
Let’s not forget that Kaepernick’s protest was never about the flag, and, as Deadspin’s Rob Parker argues, it’s probably time to stop playing the national anthem before games anyway.
For Gaetz, in his second term as Congressman, this is just the latest of his attempts to pander to far-right wing constituents that are out of touch and completely tone-deaf. In 2018 he was the lone member of Congress to vote against a bill to battle human trafficking, which passed both the House and the Senate. Earlier this week on Fox, Gaetz derided the “surrender (of) our cities to the Antifa mob” in response to the creation of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle.
This despite the fact that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has rebuked President Trump and interest from the federal government in reclaiming the area back.
Oh, and there’s absolutely no evidence that “Antifa” is involved in plotting or leading anything. What does it mean when you’re against anti-fascism, anyway?
Contrast this with soccer across the pond, where Premier League players will wear jersey with the message Black Lives Matter instead of their names as play resumes next month. As soccer gets started elsewhere in Europe, players for AC Milan and Juventus have also worn Black Lives Matter shirts. The Premier League players made a statement:
“We, the Players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for All, regardless of their colour or creed,” the players’ statement said. “This symbol is a sign of unity from all Players, all Staff, all Clubs, all Match Officials and the Premier League #blacklivesmatter #playerstogether.
Left unsaid but implicit in the message is that the United States is that place where racial prejudice exists, where federal lawmakers seek to abridge citizens’ basic human rights, and the police are an apparatus of the state to terrorize its citizens with brute force and chemical weapons banned in warfare.
We’ve become that place where millions around the world are protesting to demand an end to injustice.