Bruce Arena: “We have a policy at U.S. Soccer that our players respect the national anthem.”  (And Mead/YCJ Photo)

By Michael Lewis Editor

NEW YORK — U.S. national head coach Bruce Arena personally doesn’t have a problem with players taking a knee during the national anthem. But when it comes to the national team, that’s another story.

“Well, I think the demonstrations by the players are appropriate,” he said after FOX Sports’ ceremony that unveiled its World Cup coverage at Russia 2018 Tuesday night. “I can’t question that. I don’t want to get into a political debate here.”

But then there’s Arena’s squad — the national team. There are different rules for that side.

“National team’s different,” he said. “You don’t have to play on the national team. You can choose not to play. Those guys are professionals on their club teams. That’s their jobs. They have to be there. Our guys don’t have to be. We have a policy at U.S. Soccer that our players respect the national anthem. I don’t know exactly what it is.”

He then turned to Michael Kammarman, the U.S. men’s national team press officer, for verification.

Kammarman said it was part of the federation’s by-laws.

“What more can I say then?” Arena said.

He then was asked if a player decided to go against U.S. Soccer policy.

“What do you think I should do then, right then and there, take him off the field, burn a few substitutions?” Arena said.

“If four guys do it, we’re screwed. What do you think we should do? I’m going to go to the experts now. What happens if four guys take a knee? What do I do?”

To which one writer replied, “You take one, too.”

“OK,” Arena responded.

“If we need to discuss it, we’ll discuss it,” he added. I don’t think that’s an issue we’re going to deal [with]. We’ve got enough to worry about on Oct. 6 besides kneeling and stuff.”

That’s when the U.S. hosts Panama in a must-win World Cup qualifier in Orlando, Fla.

While it wasn’t for the women’s national team, standout midfielder Megan Rapinoe last September took a knee during the national anthem prior to Seattle Reign’s National Women’s Soccer League match against the Chicago Red Stars in a show of solidarity with then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.