On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr.Day, the US women’s national soccer team opened their 2021 season with a friendly against Colombia.

During the US national anthem game, seven of the 11 starting players protested racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling down. A year ago, this type of demonstration would have been banned as part of US football policy, which requires players to “stand respectfully” while playing the national anthem. The controversial rule – which was passed afterwards Megan Rapinoe began to kneel in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick in 2016 – was finally lifted last June. As part of the reversal, US football said in a statement: “It has become clear that this policy was wrong and undermined the important message of Black Lives Matter.”

In the past few months, the US women’s team has taken its own steps to fight racism. In November, ahead of the team’s first game in eight months, the players announced that they would be wearing warm-up jackets labeled “Black Lives Matter” to “demonstrate human decency.” That followed what captain Becky Sauerbrunn Recently described as “our first time – as a full team – conversations on racial justice and equality.”

Rapinoe, who is currently taking part in her first national team camp in 10 months, has been impressed by the increased activism she has seen from her own teammates in recent months.

“I am very proud and respectful of people who go on their own journey … and are more comfortable talking about things,” Rapinoe told reporters last week. “My white team-mates, it is indeed our responsibility to be in unity with our black team-mates.”

And so, when four white players – Carli Lloyd, Kelley O’Hara, Lindsey Horan, and Julie Ertz – stopped during the national anthem Monday evening, it did not go unnoticed.

Since Kaepernick first got on his knees in 2016, kneeling during the anthem has evolved from an act that could end a career or cause lost sponsorships to a gesture called the “mere show of unity”.

[Related: Berry’s protest helped spark change. It still cost her]

After the game, Lloyd was asked about her decision to stand. She explained that over the past few months she has been “out of the football field” and “hiding in the woods” before continuing, “I think the nice thing about this team is that we are definitely one behind the other no matter what happens. And, you know, the players decided to kneel, some players decided to stand, and at the end of the day we had our backs on each other. “

In a call to journalists on Thursday, Steph Yang |, a reporter for Stars and Stripes FC, asked the veteran defender Ali warrior What she would say to black fans who feel that explanations of team unity and mutual backs are being disingenuous with some players continuing to stand for the national anthem.

“I think it’s really an important topic to discuss. And to all of our black and brown fans and supporters: I see you and I support you, and I kneel for you, ”said Krieger.

“There were tough conversations in our team, and not everyone agrees on their decisions. I also believe that this type of material – no matter how important the flag is – is not as important as living a black and brown human life. “

Krieger continued, “Everyone needs to do their individual job and really sit down and educate themselves, read books and articles, and listen to powerful leaders. I’ve grown personally over the past four or five years. [I’ve] I actually took a look in the mirror and did some work. So I can only hope that my teammates and friends [and family members] do the same. “

The US return to the field tonight for a second game against Colombia.

[More upcoming soccer coverage: WSL preview: How to watch, fixture list, start time]

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