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A single player stood with her hand over her heart during the playing of the National Anthem ahead of a match at the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup Saturday in Herriman, Utah.
According to reporters, all starters on the Portland Thorns took a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, while all players on the North Carolina Courage except one — Katelyn Rowland — did as well.
Photos of Rowland standing went viral on social media.
This. Is. Courage. https://t.co/Biy6ArNTnu
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) June 29, 2020
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) June 28, 2020
Both teams wore matching BLM t-shirts over their regular jerseys while they were warming up before their match in a tournament that began Saturday and runs through July 26.
The two squads released a joint statement ahead of their match that the CBS broadcaster read explaining the decision to protest during the playing of the anthem, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
“We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against Black people and people of color in America,” the statement read. “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.”
NWSL is the first U.S.-based pro-sports league to begin play amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But most of them across a range of sports have pledged to make so-called “social justice reform” a major part of their seasons, which is sure to generate more controversy and drive additional fans away.
One of the league’s biggest stars, Megan Rapinoe, caused shockwaves in 2016 when she began kneeling during the playing of the anthem as a member of the U.S. Women’s Soccer national team, an act that was denounced.
In a statement, U.S. Soccer officials said “we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor the flag while the national anthem is played.”
The following year, U.S. Soccer announced a new policy that required players, coaches, and all team personnel to “stand respectfully” as each game opened and the anthem was played.
— NY Daily News Sports (@NYDNSports) March 4, 2017
“I’ve always felt that that should be what we do to honor the country and have the pride of putting on a national team jersey,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said at the time, according to the New York Daily News.
“I said that previously, I think that should be the expectation. That’s our workplace out there and we should represent ourselves and our country,” she added.
When she began kneeling, Rapinoe said she was doing it to support then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had begun kneeling during the anthem before games to protest alleged ‘targeting’ of black men by police.
But like the NFL, U.S. Soccer suffered declines in viewership, the latter losing more than 43 percent of its audience between 2015 and 2019 during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.
The NFL suffered a dramatic decline in viewership in 2017, the season after Kaepernick began his kneeling protests, leading to a decision by the league ahead of the 2018 season requiring everyone on the field to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”
However, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shelved it before the season got underway after complaints were lodged by the player’s union.
But both leagues have since dumped their anti-protest policies and, as the 2020 seasons either get underway or prepare to get underway, neither will not intervene or punish players who choose to protest during the anthem.
For her part, Rapinoe opted out of playing in this year’s NWSL Challenge Cup. But she tweeted out a photo of teams kneeling during the anthem to show her support for players “demanding a better America.”
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
But, as Katelyn Rowland demonstrates, not all players share Rapinoe’s view that disrespect during the anthem is the best way to show support for the country.
And the ones kneeling at being indoctrinated. I hope they wake up.
— Saroo True (@KaterisSaroo) June 29, 2020
Be willing to be the only one. pic.twitter.com/hGEL9lo7nq
— Mary Anne Bergeman (@MaryanneBerg79) June 29, 2020
One lone wolf amongst so many sheep!
She wins my vote!!
— Adrian Brooksbank #GoWTO #ALLLivesMatter (@Chadlad1) June 29, 2020
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