“Why didn’t we know about this national anthem bylaw before U.S. Soccer voted to approve it yesterday?”
First up: It’s not a bylaw. It’s a policy. One big difference between the two is that bylaws — such as the one approved yesterday setting term limits on the president and vice president — don’t exist until they go before the National Council says yea or nay at the Annual General Meeting. See duties (2), (8) and (9) here, from the bylaws:
Bylaw discussions have been surprisingly contentious in past years, even if the bylaw is something along the lines of “rename the Audit Committee to the Audit and Compliance Committee.” (That’s not a real one, but if you go back through the transcripts, you’ll find something close. And you can see all those transcripts, along with the bylaws and policies, on the U.S. Soccer site. In fact, let’s look at how picayune these bylaw changes can be, while also taking a look at who’s included in the National Council. It’s not just the bigwigs. This is from this year’s book with the AGM agenda, showing some proposed changes …)
Policies are set by the Board of Directors (bigwigs) throughout the year, and they’re often things that can’t wait until the next AGM. Last year, it was the new Open Cup policy banning teams whose rosters are controlled by a higher-division team (in other words, USL or NPSL teams that are literal or de facto reserve teams for MLS or NASL clubs can’t play). The National Council, as you see above, can either affirm these policy decisions or reject them.
In the case of the national anthem, the National Council was affirming a policy set at a February board meeting. The minutes for that meeting are not yet posted.
But I was still kicking myself a little when I saw the uproar over the national anthem policy (again — not bylaw). I read the whole AGM book as part of the three months of research that went into this Guardian story. I managed to spot a bylaw amendment (as part of a general overhaul, not a separate vote like the term-limit bylaw) that would remove the Hall of Fame and Society for American Soccer History as U.S. Soccer historian. I alerted the unofficial membership of the Society for American Soccer History, which includes people who worked for the Hall of Fame, and they seemed a bit alarmed. But no one made the case that the vestigial Hall staff or the ad hoc Society (I’m one of two people to attend our last two meetings) had actually been serving as U.S. Soccer historian in recent years. So I still don’t know what it means, and I’m … digressing. Back to the point …
As it turns out, the national anthem policy was not in the AGM book. (Unless I’m reading over it, and unless my PDF reader’s search function is broken.) I still have a vague memory of reading about the anthem policy, but I simply can’t find any such reference now.
The only source we have for this is Stuart Holden’s Twitter account. I’m not supposed to be on Twitter until Easter, but I did check out his timeline to see if he mentioned anything about the discussion or the vote. He did not.
So I guess I’ll have to get in touch with some people who were at the AGM in Hawaii. I’ll start calling and emailing on Monday when they’ve flown back to the mainland.
If you were there or can shed some light on this, please let me know.
Meanwhile, please don’t overlook the fact that Val Ackerman is now on the board. Or that the term limits mean it’s “put up or shut up” time for people who want to steer U.S. Soccer a little differently. Maybe start by glancing at the bylaws and trying to figure out how the federation works, because I’m starting to think Sunil Gulati and a few staffers in Chicago are the only people who know — and that’s our fault, not theirs.