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Every National Women's Soccer League player starting in the first professional American team sports game Saturday kneeled during the playing of the national anthem.
Players from both teams — the NC Courage and Portland Thorns — wore Black Lives Matter shirts during warm-ups.
The players then took the field and once again kneeled for a moment of silence for victims of police brutality while wearing black armbands in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Thorns and the Courage issued a joint statement before kickoff to explain the players' decision to kneel during the anthem.
Professional sports are back in America, but they return to a country that is considerably different than it was before.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officers ignited a conversation about police brutality and race relations across America. And, as often is the case, the public discourse has infiltrated the sports world.
So when the National Women's Soccer League became the first American professional contact sports league to return since the coronavirus pandemic began with the kickoff of the 2020 Challenge Cup on Saturday, the players capitalized on their elevated platform to make a unified statement.
Every player for the Portland Thorns and reigning champion North Carolina Courage kneeled during the national anthem before the first game in the tournament. Players on both teams wore black shirts with "BLACK LIVES MATTER" printed in block letters on the front while warming up and while the national anthem played.
—CBS Sports (@CBSSports) June 27, 2020
—NWSL (@NWSL) June 27, 2020
—NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) June 27, 2020
Shortly thereafter, the starters took the field and once again kneeled for a moment of silence in honor of victims of police brutality. Substitutes also kneeled on the sidelines.
—Alex Vejar (@AlexVReporting) June 27, 2020
Every player donned a black arm band in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
When they arrived at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, the Portland players wore black shirts that said "Educate. Elevate. Engage." in red, yellow, and green.
The Thorns and the Courage issued a joint statement prior to kickoff to explain the players' decision to kneel during the anthem:
"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," the players added.
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