After powerful and emotional scenes of silent protest on the first day of the NWSL Challenge Cup, the league announced a change in its anthem policy for the remainder of the tournament.
Players will have the option of being on the field or remain in the locker room when the national anthem is played.
On the first day of the competition, all 22 players wore "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts and knelt during the anthem before the North Carolina Courage took on the Portland Thorns. And US women’s national team players Julie Ertz and Casey Short were brought to tears while kneeling during the anthem before the Chicago Red Stars met the Washington Spirit Saturday night.
After input from player, club officials and others, the league decided to alter its policy. According to NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird, one of the goals of the tournament was to “support players to use their platform to make the world a better place.” In a statement, she says that continues with this decision.
“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,” she said. “The NWSL stands behind every player, official and staff member. Kneel on the field. Stand with your hand over your heart. Honor your feelings in the privacy of the locker room or at midfield. The NWSL is a league that was built on diversity and courage and those principles will continue to drive us forward.”
The NWSL Challenge Cup continues Tuesday with the Houston Dash taking on Utah Royals FC and OL Reign facing Sky Blue FC.