Seth Jahn, a former soccer player for the United States' 7-a-side Paralympic team, was removed from the U.S. Soccer Federation's Athletes' Council after he gave a racially charged speech over the weekend.
The 38-year-old's comments came as the council opened the floor ahead of a vote to repeal a policy requiring its athletes to stand for the national anthem, known as Policy 604-1, SB Nation reported. The policy was initially enacted after soccer star Megan Rapinoe kneeled before a game in support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick back in 2016, and was successfully rescinded at February's meeting.
Ahead of the vote, Jahn, a U.S. Army Special Forces Veteran, spoke out against the repeal.
"I'm sure I'm going to ruffle some feathers with what I'm about to say, especially given the athletes' council that I'm on, but given the evolution of our quote-unquote, progressive culture where everything offends everybody, those willing to take a knee our for anthem don't care about defending half of our country and when they do so, then I don't have too much concern in also exercising my First Amendment right," Jahn said, according to the Associated Press.
"We're here to get a different perspective. I also feel compelled to articulate that I'm of mixed race and representative of undoubtedly the most persecuted people in our country's history, Native Americans," he continued.
In his comments, Jahn asserted that kneeling during the national anthem was inherently disrespectful to the military, despite it being an Army veteran who initially suggested the idea to Kaepernick in 2016. Kaepernick, who played for the San Francisco 49ers when he began taking a knee before games, said he was kneeling as an act of protest against systemic racism and police brutality.
In his comments this weekend, Jahn also seemingly tried to downplay Black slavery in America's history.
"I keep hearing how our country was founded on the backs of slaves, even though approximately only 8 percent of the entire population even owned slaves," he said, as noted by the AP. "Every race in the history of mankind has been enslaved by another demographic at some point time. Blacks have been enslaved. Hispanics have been enslaved. Asians most recently in our country in the freaking 20th century, have been enslaved. Natives have been enslaved. Whites have been enslaved. Shoot, I lived in Africa for 2 1/2 years where I could purchase people, slaves, between the price of $300 and $800 per person, per head depending on their age, health and physicality."
"Where were the social justice warriors and the news journalists there to bring their ruminations to these real atrocities?" Jahn continued. "And yet in all of history, only one country has fought to abolish slavery, the United States of America, where nearly 400,000 men died to fight for the abolishment of slavery underneath the same stars and bars that our athletes take a knee for. Their sacrifice is tainted with every knee that touches the ground."
On Sunday, Paralympian Chris Ahrens published a statement from the council that announced Jahn had been removed from the group by vote.
"The athlete's council does not tolerate this type of language and finds it incompatible with membership on the council," the statement said, in part. "While the council understands that each person has a right to his or her own opinion, there are certain opinions that go beyond the realm of what is appropriate or acceptable."
"[The council] wants to be unequivocable in its condemnation of the statements that Mr. Jahn made yesterday," it continued.
In response to his removal, Jahn posted a statement to Twitter saying he would "never apologize" for his comments while claiming "nothing" he said was racist.
"I've done more for people of color all over this planet at risk of my own life throughout the entirety of my 17-year career than the entire athletes' counsel have done cumulatively, and I will continue to do so," he said before explaining his comments on slavery were meant to give attention to modern-day slave-owning.
USWNT player Becky Sauerbrunn expressed her anger toward Jahn's comments in a post to social media, writing that he despite him being "entitled to his own opinion — he is, however, not entitled to his own set of facts nor do I think he should use said facts in a way that misinforms and obfuscates the real issues at hand."
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