On Saturday, as the National Women’s Soccer League commenced the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah, all 22 players plus the reserves for the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the national anthem in a game televised by CBS. They also knelt just before kickoff, ESPN reported.
Prior to the game the players and their coaches donned Black Lives Matter T-shirts for warmups.
The two teams released a statement before the game that read:
We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against Black people and people of color in America. We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard. It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone.
Courage midfielder Sam Mewis stated after the game, “Today, hopefully, it was a powerful statement. It was an emotional time and I hope that both teams’ message comes through clearly.” She continued, “I think we want to keep this momentum and keep the attention on the Black Lives Matter movement throughout this tournament.”
Thorns defender Becky Sauerbrunn added: “The (players’ association) has been about collaborating with teams on what we can do to maintain and sustain the conversation around racial injustice in this country. We made a strong statement and we wanted to kind of maintain that momentum that has been happening and to show official commitment to the cause.”
U.S. national women’s soccer team star Megan Rapinoe, who knelt before an NWSL game when she played for the Seattle (now OL) Reign, tweeted: “You love to see it. You love to see these women using their voice, demanding better for America, and for black people and people of color. @TheNCCourage and @ThornsFC kneeling in solidarity with @Kaepernick7 and @Blklivesmatter.”
You love to see it. You love to see these women using their voice, demanding better for America, and for black people and people of color. @TheNCCourage and @ThornsFC kneeling in solidarity with @Kaepernick7 and @Blklivesmatter ✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 pic.twitter.com/8Urlj5FMPn
— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) June 27, 2020
“During Saturday’s late match between the Chicago Red Stars and the Washington Spirit, a few players remained standing,” ESPN reported, adding that Spirit Coach Richie Burke, who also knelt, said, “I’m grateful for everything this country has given me, but I feel the need to support the Black Lives Matter movement because I know this privilege isn’t the same for everyone. This is just the start. There is much more work to be done.”
On June 10, U.S. Soccer announced they were repealing their previous policy that required players to stand during the national anthem. Their statement read:
U.S. Soccer affirms Black Lives Matter, and we support the fight against racial injustices.
The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted yesterday afternoon to repeal Policy 604-1, which required our players to stand during the national anthem. The policy was put in place after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with the peaceful protest inspired by Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality, and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of color in America. It has become clear that this policy was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter.
We have not done enough to listen – especially to our players – to understand and acknowledge the very real and meaningful experiences of Black and other minority communities in our country. We apologize to our players – especially our Black players – staff, fans, and all who support eradicating racism. Sports are a powerful platform for good, and we have not used our platform as effectively as we should have. We can do more on these specific issues and we will.
It should be, and will be going forward, up to our players to determine how they can best use their platforms to fight all forms of racism, discrimination, and inequality. We are here for our players and are ready to support them in elevating their efforts to achieve social justice. We cannot change the past, but we can make a difference in the future. We are committed to this change effort, and we will be implementing supporting actions in the near future.