US Soccer is, by all appearances, the first major American sports organization to ban kneeling during the national anthem, Deadspin reports. US Soccer first addressed the issue last September after Megan Rapinoe took a knee in protest during the national anthem prior to a match. Rapinoe said she was kneeling in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and marginalized groups, specifically the LGBT community. "We have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag," the league said in a statement following Rapinoe's protest.
Despite no other US Soccer player, including Rapinoe, appearing to kneel since then, the organization decided to go a step further. ESPN reports a new rule was approved by the US Soccer board of directors in February and revealed Saturday during the organization's general meeting in Hawaii. Fox Sports' Stuart Holden tweeted a photo of the new rule, which states all national team players must "stand respectfully" during the anthem. That covers kneeling, as well as turning one's back on the flag and other potentially disrespectful actions, according to Fox Sports. The rule doesn't specify any punishment for kneelers, and US Soccer president Sunil Gulati says consequences will be figured out if/when necessary. (Meanwhile, Kaepernick announced this week he'll no longer be kneeling for the anthem.)