NWSL players kneel during anthem, wear Black Lives Matter shirts before kickoff (video)

Every single North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns player kneeled during the national anthem before NWSL kickoff on Saturday. (Via Twitter/@mPinoe)

The National Women’s Soccer League became the first North American team sport to resume play on Saturday with a game between the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns, and they used their network television debut to make a powerful statement about racism and equality.

Before the opening whistle of the NWSL Challenge Cup, all Courage and Thorns players kneeled during the national anthem.

All players and coaches were also wearing Black Lives Matter shirts during warmups, and numerous players wore Black Lives Matter armbands during the game itself.

Megan Rapinoe, who has opted out of the NWSL Challenge Cup, tweeted how proud she was to see her fellow players making such an anti-racism statement.

Once players took the field, the Black Lives Matter shirts were replaced by Black Lives Matter armbands. Before play officially began, they held a moment of silence in recognition of the lives lost to police brutality and the ongoing fight against systemic racism. Players were in position on the field, and they again took a knee.

Just before the game began, the Courage and Thorns released a joint statement.

Saturday is a big day for the NWSL. There are so many eyes on the league, some for the first time ever. Faced with a large audience and increased attention, the players used this opportunity to show everyone where they stand: against racism and inequality.

The NWSL’s Challenge Cup game ended with a thrill. The Courage beat the Thorns 2-1, with all three goals coming in the final 20 minutes of the match.

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