MLS commissioner Don Garber has encouraged his league's players to stand for the national anthem, while also affirming their rights to protest amid the firestorm set off by President Donald Trump.
At a rally Friday, Trump called on NFL team owners to fire players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
In response, hundreds of NFL players kneeled during games Sunday and Monday.
With the controversy looking unlikely to go away anytime soon, Garber released a league-wide memorandum Tuesday on the hot-button issue.
"The march of players, officials and children into our stadiums and singing of the anthem has been a pre-match tradition since our first game in 1996," Garber said. "The national anthem provides our clubs and fans an important and time-honored opportunity to salute our country and stand up for its principles – whether in the United States or in Canada.
"At the same time, freedom of speech – and the right to peaceful protest – are the hallmarks of both countries. Though we encourage our players to stand during the national anthem, we respect and support their right to express their personal beliefs."
On Monday, the MLS Players Union denounced Trump's comments, calling them "jarring and disappointing."