Story at a glance

  • Dunn says, “we never felt we were going to kneel forever,” ESPN reports.
  • The team stood while the anthem played ahead of Sunday’s 2-0 win over Brazil. The athletes walked onto the field wearing jackets with the words “Black Lives Matter” on the front.

Continuing their legacy of activism for both civil rights and equal pay, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team says they’re changing their tactics and “putting all of the talk into actual work” to fight for racial justice. 

Speaking to ESPN reporters, U.S. defender Crystal Dunn explains why her team decided to stand during the national anthem ahead of this Sunday’s match — a pivot from their previous decisions to kneel — and says they’re ready to move to a new chapter of their advocacy. 

“I think those that were collectively kneeling felt like we were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism," Dunn said, according to ESPN. "I think we decided that moving forward we no longer feel the need to kneel because we are doing the work behind the scenes. We are combating systemic racism.”

Her comments came after a victory against Brazil’s professional women’s team in the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Florida. 

The U.S. players wore shirts with “Black Lives Matter” written across the chest before changing into jerseys. 

Players on the U.S. team knelt in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. The move was previously championed by professional football player Colin Kaepernick in 2016.  

While kneeling on the pitch is an important symbolic gesture, Dunn said the team intends to channel the sentiment into other forms of action. 

“And we never felt we were going to kneel forever, so there was always going to be a time that we felt it was time to stand,” she explained. “I think we're all proud that we are doing the work behind the scenes and it was just a game that we felt we were ready to move into the next phase and just continuously fight for change.”

As a Black athlete, Dunn noted that the improved diversity on U.S. soccer’s roster has helped them address social justice issues, but that more needs to be done.

“For me personally I've always felt like I'm a testament to a lot of Black experiences. I am a Black athlete who has often felt like I have not been heard or not been seen and many Black people feel the same way,” she said. 

“Even though we are choosing to stand, it doesn't mean that the conversations go away, or they stop," Dunn noted. "It's all to say that we are now, I think, ready to move past the protesting phase and actually move into putting all of the talk into actual work.”

Published on Feb 22, 2021