Rachel Bachman, Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2020
The confluence of the coronavirus pandemic and the rise of protests against racial injustice is prompting a shift in how sporting events handle a longtime staple: the pregame playing of the national anthem with players on the field or court.
On Monday night the National Women’s Soccer League announced it would give players the option of being on the field or in their locker room during the anthem.
The announcement came two days after the league’s Saturday launch of a one-month tournament, which is being played without fans in attendance in the Salt Lake City area. Before the second game of the day, between the Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit, most players knelt while a few stood. All players wore T-shirts reading “Black Lives Matter.”
Chicago teammates Julie Ertz, who is white, and Casey Short, who is Black, knelt and sobbed, arms draped over one another’s shoulders, as the anthem played on loudspeakers. The NWSL tweeted a photo of the two athletes with the message, “This moment and this movement means everything to our players.”
— NWSL (@NWSL) June 28, 2020
On Sunday, the NWSL Players Association issued a statement reading in part: “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. The Players Association supports both making a clear statement that Black Lives Matter and each player making a personal decision around whether to stand or kneel during the national anthem.”
NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said the anthem policy change would give players flexibility and support each player’s right to express her views or not.
Also on Saturday, U.S. athletes sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee calling on it to repeal its rule prohibiting demonstration or “political, religious or racial propaganda” at Olympic sites. The letter asked the IOC to collaborate with athletes to “reshape the future of athlete expression at the Olympic and Paralympic Games” and allow gestures that align with Olympic principles.