The U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) showed their support for racial justice by donning Black Lives Matter jackets and kneeling on the field ahead of their 2-0 winning game against the Netherlands on Friday.
“Today, we wear Black Lives Matter to affirm human decency,” the team said in a statement released on Friday. “We protest against the racist infrastructures that do not provide equal opportunity for Black and brown people to fulfill their dreams, including playing on this team.”
Videos posted to social media also show several players kneeling as the national anthem was played ahead of the International Friendly match:
— Anthony DiCicco (@DiCiccoMethod) November 27, 2020
Though not every member of the team took a knee, the visible and symbolic action taken for Black lives by the women’s soccer team highlights just how much things have shifted in the sports arena since former NFL player Colin Kaepernick was blacklisted for starting the practise of kneeling against racial injustice.
When World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe mirrored his silent protest at a soccer game in 2016, the US Soccer Federation responded by banning players from kneeling during the anthem, reports CNN.
Though individual players have been outspoken about social justice in the past — most notably Megan Rapinoe, who was one of the first athletes to take a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick’s police brutality protest in 2016 — the US Soccer Federation hasn’t always been on their side.
For example, when Rapinoe took the knee in 2016 during the National Anthem, US Soccer immediately passed a policy banning players from kneeling during the anthem. That policy was only just repealed this summer, in the midst of mass protests following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
Of course, 2020 brought into sharp relief the issues of police brutality and the systemic injustice experienced by Black Americans that Kaepernick was ruthlessly silenced for trying to bring to national attention with his symbolic protests. This year, professional players in the NBA, WNBA, and even tennis have donned jerseys and other items showing they support justice for the Black lives that have been taken due to racism.
The phrase “Black Lives Matter” itself is still not without controversy though, due to this being a country where the concept isn’t a given, so shoutout to the USWNT for making an unequivocal statement that this is what they believe.
“This is not political, it’s a statement on human rights,” said the team in a statement about the Black Lives Matter jackets.