NSWL players wear 'Black Lives Matter' shirts, kneel during national anthem before first game of Challenge Cup
The North Carolina and Portland teams of the National Women's Soccer League on Saturday, June 27, wore ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirts and kneeled in a moment of silence to protest against racial injustice and police brutality. The 22 players took a moment of silence just before the Courage vs. Thorns FC match at Zions Bank Stadium in Salt Lake City before the first game of the Challenge Cup. In addition to this, most of the players also knelt during the national anthem at the first major American professional sports league since the coronavirus pandemic caused season postponements and cancellations for several months.
A joint statement from the Thorns and Courage players read: “We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racismagainst Black 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."
Megan Rapinoe, who became the first women soccer player to kneel during the anthem in 2016 in support of Colin Kaepernick, was not playing in the NWSL's tournament, citing coronavirus concerns. However, she supported the team’s action and commented: “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."
The May 25 death of George Floyd has sparked nationwide protests in the US with people coming out on streets to raise their voices against racism and police brutality. Several athletes and sportspersons have also joined them and have taken a public stand against the incident.
Earlier this month, Adrian Peterson said he was planning to kneel during the national anthem before NFL games this season to protest the death of 46-year-old Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis officer allegedly knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. The 35-year-old Washington running back, who was inspired by NFL star Kaepernick, also said that he was expecting other players to join him. “Just four years ago, you're seeing Kaepernick taking a knee, and now we're all getting ready to take a knee together going into this season, without a doubt," Peterson said.
Peterson’s comments came after Saints quarterback Drew Brees said: "We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!" he had said. However, later Brees apologized for his comments and wrote on Instagram: “I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community, and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused."
“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character,” he added.