Last night, U.S. Soccer held its annual General Meeting, during which it elected a new vice president and repealed policy 604-1, which required athletes to stand during the playing of the national anthem. The U.S. Soccer board of directors voted to roll back the rule last summer, writing, “It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter.” The national council’s Saturday vote, which passed with 71 percent, formalizes the June decision.
However, both the election of Bill Taylor and the nixing of the 2017 anthem ruling were overshadowed by an inflammatory speech made by former U.S. Paralympian and Athletes’ Council member Seth Jahn. Over the course of seven minutes, Jahn attempted to poke holes in the idea that police brutality is a societal ill worth taking seriously and then questioned whether slavery was really all that big a deal. Jahn supported his latter point with a bizarre anecdote about how he “lived in Africa for two and a half years where I could purchase people—slaves—between the price of $300 and $800 per person.” Hmm. The transcript of Jahn’s speech is below.
Immediately after Jahn’s speech, U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone spoke up in support of the proposal and pointed out the same thing people have been saying for six years, which is that kneeling during the national anthem has nothing to do with disrespecting veterans. Reporters then asked Cone why Jahn had been allowed to talk for so long without being told to at least wrap it up, and she claimed that she couldn’t actually hear what he was saying thanks to an “audio issue.” She also said, “If we’re truly going to embrace DEI, it can’t just be when you agree or when you’re comfortable with it. We have to hear all sides.” Hours later, U.S. Soccer limply said Jahn’s views weren’t representative of the governing body.
Several members of the Athletes’ Council released a statement of their own admonishing Jahn for crossing over into the realm of “disinformation and offensive rhetoric.” Jahn’s former USPNT teammate Michael Moore denounced Jahn’s speech, as did USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn. Several USWNT stars, including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, also condemned the speech.
On Sunday morning, Jahn issued what he characterized as an apology letter. Nice! That’s a relief, it’s good to see people learning from the hurt they inflic—ah, nope, there’s the phrase “social media warrior’s gestapo tactics.”
Update (10:11 p.m. ET): Jahn was removed from the Athletes’ Council on Sunday for violating its harassment policy. The council’s full statement on why is below.