Opening the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah, all 22 players for the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage knelt during the national anthem on Saturday.
Players and coaches also donned Black Lives Matter T-shirts in warmups before the game, which was nationally televised on CBS. The players also knelt for a moment of silence before the game started.
Megan Rapinoe, who plays for OL Reign but opted out of the Challenge Cup, was criticized when she knelt at an NWSL game and a pair of U.S. national team games in 2016. She said she wanted to express solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the anthem to bring attention to racial inequality.
In response, U.S. Soccer adopted a rule that required players to stand. But that rule was repealed earlier this month amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and racial inequity.
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.”
Spirit Coach Richie Burke joined his players in kneeling before the late game.
“I’m grateful for everything this country has given me, but I feel the need to support the Black Lives Matter movement because I know this privilege isn’t the same for everyone. This is just the start. There is much more work to be done,” Burke said.
Mewis said the teams will continue to call attention to racial injustice throughout the Challenge Cup.
“I think we want to keep this momentum and keep the attention on the Black Lives Matter movement throughout this tournament,” she said.