Hours after their colleagues on other teams took a knee during the national anthem, Casey Short and Julie Ertz did the same.
Short and Ertz shared uniquely raw emotion on Saturday night, right before their Chicago Red Stars faced the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup.
You can see the moment above, as captured by Associated Press photographer Rick Bowmer, and also below as presented by the NWSL:
Short, a Black woman, being supported in close quarters by her teammate Ertz, a white woman and team captain. Both kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.
The power of the image needs little explanation.
“I think the emotions you saw Casey have prior to the game, and probably Julie at that point as well, I think a majority of our team has been having those kinds of emotions all day,” said Red Stars coach Rory Dames, “struggling with what was the right thing to do or how you show solidarity, and how do you support the Black Lives Matter movement and what’s going on.”
The NWSL has been proactive in its support of the Black Lives Matter movement. A video of Black players speaking out on the issue is pinned to the top of the league’s official Twitter account.
One of the themes is allyship, and the video is interlaced with comments from Short herself, which she posted on social media on June 5 as protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody raged across the country.
The notion of allyship also led to backlash for Short’s teammate, Rachel Hill, who was the only Red Stars starter not to take a knee Saturday night. (Three Spirit starters stood as well, in addition to several bench players.) Hill was not made available to speak after the game, and Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler III seemingly spoke for her in a Twitter thread.
“The players and staff are unified in their support for BLM and each other. That is 100% full stop unambiguous,” Whisler tweeted. “Trying to read an emotional (sic) tv moment and assuming you know what is in their hearts is not fair or correct.”
The NWSLPA released a statement of its own Sunday morning, writing in part that “Whether a Player chooses to kneel or stand during the national anthem is a personal decision and is not indicative of whether they support BLM or their teammates.”
Was Hill wrong for standing? Does arguing for the right to kneel, by function, also argue for the right to stand?
Did Hill request to stand next to Short specifically because she knew she wasn’t going to kneel, but also wanted to put her arm on her shoulder as a way of showing support? Should white people show solidarity regardless of how they feel, because a big part of this entire moment in America is due to failure to look beyond oneself?
Some answers we don’t know. Others are up to us individually.
As a matter of exercise and nothing else, let’s leave things for now with Short’s own words.
“I believe mistakes should be called out in a constructive manner,” Short wrote, “but let's not chastise someone making an effort because they aren't doing enough according to your personal standards.”
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