By Brian Lowe, Date: 18/10/17
Unlike their NFL counterparts, players who will be representing the United States at Rugby League World Cup 2017 will not protest during the playing of the American national anthem.
“We, as a team, have had discussions already about the national anthem and what it stands for and how much it means to all of us to represent our country in the World Cup,” said USA Hawks captain Nick Newlin.
In case you haven’t been following this issue, in the US, National Football League players have been kneeling or standing arm in arm on the sidelines, and in some cases, remaining in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner as a protest against what they see as a social injustice that needs to be addressed.
It started during the 2016 NFL season when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before a game to protest the incidence of the shooting of black men by police officers.
Since then, more NFL players, black and white, have followed suit and it has become such a huge national issue that it has even involved President Donald Trump. He has criticized players who don’t stand at attention and face the flag during the anthem, which by the way, they’re required to do according to NFL regulations.
The anthem issue has become very polarizing across the US, so much so, that the NFL has been losing TV audiences and crowds at football stadiums have booed players who protest during the anthem.
However, according to the USA Hawks captain, while individual American rugby league players may or may not agree with the actions of NFL players, as a team they will not disrespect the US flag or the national anthem.
“There are three US military veterans on the team and Coach McDermott also served his home country, so we believe in respecting the flag and what it stands for,” said Newlin.
“All 23 players and coaching staff will be standing for the US national anthem and singing along loud and proud.”
The USA Rugby League (USARL) doesn’t actually have a formal policy on what players are required to do during the playing of the anthem, simply because before now it has not been an issue.
“The USA Hawks will benefit when the entire team meets in Townsville and where we can address the subject in front of the whole group to ensure everyone is on the same page,” said USARL communications manager Steve Williams.
“Hopefully, once addressed, it doesn’t become a further distraction and we can concentrate on playing good footy.”
The USA opens its RLWC campaign against Fiji in Townsville on October 28.