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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.

“Today, hopefully, it was a powerful statement,” Courage midfielder Sam Mewis said. “It was an emotional time and I hope that both teams’ message comes through clearly.”

Rapinoe voiced her support for the NWSL players Saturday on social media: “You love to see these women using their voice, demanding better for America, and for black people and people of color.”

  • J Surhoff says:

    Fuck black people

  • Carol says:

    This is a display that echoes no gratitude but only selfishness on the part of these players. They are not an example of sportsmanship or respect of the game. I don’t want my family to see such disrespect. No matter how many years of practice it took to play this game at your level, it means nothing when you take a knee. I stopped watching the NFL because of the kneeling. I don’t even like soccer so not watching will not be a loss for me..

  • Richard E Bundy says:

    Cut any and all federal funding. I want none of these disrespectful little SHITS on the US Olympic team. Fuck it just get rid of the Olympics all together their nothing but overpaid Pro’s anymore anyhow.

  • CF