(Reuters) - Every player from the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns took a knee during the U.S. national anthem and wore t-shirts with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” prior to their National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) match on Saturday.
In a joint statement, the players said they did so to protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against Black people and other people of color in America.
“We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard,” the players said.
“It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone.”
The protest was popularized by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and the gesture has again gained steam following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
Saturday’s match in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah, marked the first time a major North American league has returned to action since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, which upended the sports calendar in March.
The favored Courage prevailed 2-1 over the Thorns after Lynn Williams headed in the game winner in stoppage time to kick off the month-long Challenge Cup tournament.
“I think we have things to work on,” Williams said.
“I have to work on my finishing, there’s some rust in there, but overall I couldn’t ask for anything better than to come out with a win.”
Later on Saturday the Washington Spirit will take on the Chicago Red Stars.
Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Pritha Sarkar
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