Players from the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the national anthem on Saturday as the National Women’s Soccer League opened a Challenge Cup tournament in Utah.
Players and coaches alike wore Black Lives Matter T-Shirts with their warmups before the game which was nationally televised on CBS. The players also knelt during a moment of silence before kickoff.
“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,” the Thorns and Courage said in a joint statement released before the game.
Breitbart News reported that the league said they would support whatever the players decided, not every player from every team participated. The later match between the Red Stars and the Washington Spirit a few players remained standing.
“Today, hopefully, it was a powerful statement,” Courage midfielder Sam Mewis said after her team defeated the Thorns 2-1. “It was an emotional time and I hope that both teams’ message comes through clearly.”
Thorns defender Becky Sauerbrunn said: “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,” she added.
Spirit Coach Richie Burke also joined his players and took a knee before the game.
“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,” Burke said.