Twenty-two starters clothed in Black Black Lives Matter T-shirts from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns knelt during the national anthem before the National Women’s Soccer League kicked off their first game of the Challenge Cup Saturday.
As America wades through a racial awakening, the players took a knee in Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, to protest the systemic racism and police brutality that persist in the United States. Members from both teams were seen standing in the inner field during the moment of silence.
Megan Rapinoe became the first non-NFL player to kneel during the anthem in 2016 while competing for the U.S. National team. She did so for two games and continued while playing for the Seattle Reign. Rapinoe tweeted in support of the demonstration:
In a statement from the Thorns and Courage players, the teams said: “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 NWSL is the first American professional sports league to return to action during the coronavirus pandemic. Sports leagues shut down play in March after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus.
Fans will not be permitted to attend the monthlong tournament in Utah. The Courage won the match 2-1.