The National Women’s Soccer League returned to action on Saturday – becoming the first team sport to resume its season amid the coronavirus pandemic – and also the first to return since newfound calls to end systemic racism have rang through the country.
Players in the game between the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns, as well as the Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit, knelt during the national anthem to protest racism and social injustice, following the lead NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick set in 2016.
Players and coaches also wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts during warmups with several other players wearing Black Lives Matter armbands during the game.
During the national anthem prior to the Red Stars and Spirit game, Chicago teammates Julie Ertz and Casey Short had an emotional moment while kneeling together.
A moment of silence was also held before the game to honor the lives lost to police brutality.
USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, who has been outspoken on social issues and was among those who knelt during the national anthem in 2016, tweeted how proud she was to watch the women of the NWSL take a stand on such an important issue.
The recent protests over the last month have sparked athletes to take a more vocal role in activism, with many hoping to use their platform to spark change.
However, in the NBA, some players are hesitant that a return to the season will take away the focus on the work being done to initiate change.
A report surfaced on Sunday that the NBA could possibly allow players to replace their names with social justice statements on the back of their jerseys as part of an effort to continue to keep the focus on the issue of system racism and injustice while still playing games.
While the NWSL may not have the same popularity as the NBA, the league still showed that there is a path to bring attention and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement while still playing games.