The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team will not stay silent when it comes to raising awareness for racial equality and social justice. In fact, their fight is far from over.
After warming up in “Black Lives Matter” warm up jackets ahead of the SheBelieves Cup game on Sunday, USWNT players didn’t kneel when the national anthem played in their tournament opener. Instead, they stood as a group.
U.S. defender and Portland Thorns star Crystal Dunn explained that after years of kneeling in protest, all of the women’s players made a collective decision to focus on the “next phase” of their social justice work.
"I think those that were collectively kneeling felt like we were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism," Dunn said in her post-game press conference. "I think we decided that moving forward we no longer feel the need to kneel because we are doing the work behind the scenes. We are combating systemic racism. And we never felt we were going to kneel forever, so there was always going to be a time that we felt it was time to stand...
Women’s players have been kneeling in silent protest against racism since as early as 2016 when USWNT co-captain and OL Reign star Megan Rapinoe first knelt during the national anthem four-and-a half years ago following in the footsteps of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"I haven’t experienced over-policing, racial profiling, police brutality or the sight of a family member’s body lying dead in the street,” she told The Players' Tribune. “But I cannot stand idly by while there are people in this country who have had to deal with that kind of heartache."
Dunn, who is one of seven Black and biracial players on the USWNT, said, “it was only a matter of time,” before players began standing again. The 2015 NWSL Most Valuable Player says the group believes the time for protest has passed, and the time for action is now.
“Kneeling was a form of protest,” Dunn explained. “It was a way to bring about attention to the issues that were going on in our country and actually across the world. But we’re really proud, we’ve been doing so much work behind the scenes, so much.
“We all encourage each other to step out of our comfort zone and be more involved in our communities and really just not only focus on soccer because ultimately we are more than athletes.”
While the most important moment of the SheBelieves Cup happened before the players officially took the pitch, players will continue to use their platforms to raise awareness about the matters closest to their hearts for years to come.
In their tournament opener on Thursday, the USWNT came away with a 1-0 victory over Canada. Three days later, Christen Press scored a goal in the first half and Megan Rapinoe had a late-game strike to take down Brazil 2-0. Dunn preserved the USWNT's lead with a goal-saving slide tackle just in front of the net.
Next up, the USWNT sets their sights on Argentina at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday.