Taking a cue from ex-NFL Colin Kaepernick, the women of the national soccer league took a knee and a stand for Black lives.
During the opening weekend of the National Women's Soccer League (NSWL) tournament, players began to kneel as the National Anthem played in the background. The act was a show of solidarity for those currently protesting systemic racism and police brutality in the United States, CNN reports. To silence any doubts or confusion about their intentions, the players were wearing t-shirts that read "Black Lives Matter."
The League officially announced in a statement on Monday that any and all members would be allowed to kneel or remain in locker rooms when the National Anthem is played during games. This is vastly different from the treatment former NFL player Colin Kaepernick received when he chose to kneel while still playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
Members of the teams' Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage were the first to perform the act of solidarity, choosing to kneel right before playing in the Challenge Cup tournament opener at Zions Bank Stadium which took place in Herriman, Utah. They all wore black t-shirts with "Black Lives Matter" printed across them and took a knee while the National Anthem played. Players from the Chicago Red Stars, Washington Spirit, OL Reign, and Sky Blue FC teams also knelt during their opening games.
However, the players were not the only ones expressing support; coaches, staff members, and match officials also took a knee before a match between the Houston Dash and Utah Royals FC commenced.
Prior to this particular game, the NSWL released a statement in order to announce their official stance on the matter. They affirmed, following conversations with players from various clubs, officials, and other stakeholders, that players would have the option to be on or off the field in their locker rooms when the National Anthem is played.
NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird stated, "We're going to continue to play the National Anthem, but with even more flexibility, and support each player's right to express their individual views, or not. The NWSL stands behind every player, official and staff member. Kneel on the field. Stand with your hand over your heart. Honor your feelings in the privacy of the locker room or at midfield. The NWSL is a league that was built on diversity and courage and those principles will continue to drive us forward."
Those who remember the backlash football player-turned-activist Kaepernick faced when he launched the initiative to take a knee will recognize the glaring differences. This time around, there is a greater understanding of the intersections between sport and race.
In a joint statement, players of the North Carolina Courage and the Portland Thorns NWSL clubs expressed why they made the decision to kneel. "We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism against Black people and people of color in America," they explained. "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."
#TakeAKneeNews:— AnonymousBC🍀 (@AnonymousBC1) June 27, 2020
Yes! National Women's Soccer League Players Kneel During The National Anthem:: Players For The Portland Thorns And The North Carolina Courage Knelt During The National Anthem Saturday in Utah↷https://t.co/3lAtTpEvbm