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Former USMNT coach Bruce Arena thinks playing national anthem before games is ‘inappropriate’

The playing of the national anthem before sporting events is a longstanding tradition in the United States.

Yet after the controversy surrounding “The Star-Spangled Banner” in recent years, former men’s national team coach and current New England Revolution boss Bruce Arena is over it. 

Playing it before sporting events, he said, is “inappropriate.”

“I think it puts people in awkward positions,” Arena said Thursday, via ESPN. “We don’t use the national anthem in movie theaters or on Broadway, or for other events in the United States. I don’t think it is appropriate to have a national anthem before a baseball game or an MLS game. But having said that I want it understood that I am very patriotic, but I think it is inappropriate.”

Former USMNT coach and current New England Revolution boss Bruce Arena doesn't think playing the national anthem before games is "appropriate" anymore. (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

Arena, a five-time MLS Cup winner and three-time MLS Coach of the Year, joined the Revolution last May. He led the USMNT from 1998-2006, and again from 2016-17. He is the national team’s winningest coach with an 81-35-32 record, too.

U.S. Soccer has been at the middle of the debate around protesting during the national anthem, ever since women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe started kneeling in 2017 in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Her move to do so caused U.S. Soccer to adopt a rule forcing players to stand during the national anthem, though that was repealed last week. 

Rapinoe has feuded with President Donald Trump, one of the fiercest opponents to the protests, over that and other issues ever since. 

Trump pushed back against U.S. Soccer’s rule change almost immediately, tweeting out that he wouldn’t watch “much” soccer anymore if players start kneeling. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a strong ally of Trump’s, even introduced a bill this month that would force U.S. Soccer players to stand

From an MLS standpoint, Arena doesn’t think playing the anthem makes sense anymore. Not only has it become extremely divisive, but more than half of the league’s players were born outside of the United States. 

“Think about it,” Arena said, via ESPN. “In Major League Soccer, most of the players that are standing on the field during the national anthem are international players. They are not even Americans. So why are we playing the national anthem? With all due respect, I live in the greatest country in the world but I think it is inappropriate.”

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