Players for the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the national anthem Saturday when the National Women’s Soccer League opened the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah.
The players and coaches wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts in warmups before the game, which was nationally televised on CBS. The players also knelt during a moment of silence before kickoff.
“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 Thorns and Courage said in a joint statement released before the game.
The league said Friday that it would play the national anthem before the Challenge Cup games and that it would support the players in whatever they chose to do.
The NWSL is the first professional team sport in the United States to return amid the coronavirus outbreak. The monthlong Challenge Cup opened Saturday with a pair of games played without fans at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah.
The Courage defeated the Thorns 2-1 in Saturday’s opening match. The Chicago Red Stars play the Washington Spirit in the late game.