NWSL alters national anthem policy after mass demonstrations, will let players stay in locker room

Yahoo reports the National Women’s Soccer League resumed play on Saturday amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it kicked off with a powerful statement during the national anthem.

Every player on the North Carolina Courage and the Portland Thorns took a knee on the field during the playing of the national anthem and wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts, marking a tremendous show of support to the movement.

On Monday, though, the NWSL revised its policy surrounding the national anthem.

The anthem will still be played before games as normal, but players will not be required to be out on the field. If they choose, the league said, they can remain in the locker room instead.

“We began this tournament with several important goals. Develop a safe environment for the continuation of sport. Create an innovative competition to showcase the vitality of women’s soccer. Collaborate with our players association and develop a genuine partnership. Raise revenue to fund player compensation. And support and empower players to use their platform to make the world a better place,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement. “And so, we’re going to continue to play the national anthem, but with even more flexibility, and support each player’s right to express their individual views, or not.”

Players across other teams in the league also took a knee during the anthem during their respective games. The move was not universally done, however, as some still opted to stand — including Rachel Hill, who was the only Red Stars starter not to take a knee.

The NWSLPA released a statement on Sunday, making it clear that kneeling or standing during the anthem is a personal decision for its players, and that it supports them regardless.

“The Players Association supports both making a clear statement that Black Lives Matter and each player making a personal decision around whether to stand or kneel during the national anthem,” the NWSLPA said, in part. “We ask that our supporters and media respect each player’s right to handle these moments in the way that they choose and know that our players are united against racism and in support of one another.”

Per Insider while the national anthem played prior to the Chicago Red Stars’ 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup match against the Washington Spirit Saturday night, some players from both sides of the second game of the day knelt while the national anthem played. Red Stars teammates Julie Ertz and Casey Short were amongst those taking a knee, and the emotional reaction of the two USWNT stars caught the attention of all tuning into the broadcast.

Short, who is one of two Black players on Chicago’s roster, sobbed into Ertz’s arms while the anthem reverberated through the empty Zion’s Bank Stadium. Ertz, who is one of the most recognizable figures on the USWNT and the reigning US Soccer Female Player of the Year, held her teammate and cried along with her for the duration of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”