Even Kneeled

“What does change look like?” wrote Julie Johnston Ertz ’14 in a joint statement about her decision to kneel during the national anthem.

Even Kneeled
Julie Johnston Ertz ’14 and Casey Short Krueger embrace during the national anthem at a June 2020 game. Photo courtesy AP.

Weeks of honest, often difficult conversations led to Chicago Red Stars defender Julie Johnston Ertz ’14 taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement as the National Women’s Soccer League opened its season in late June 2020.

The NWSL was the first professional sports league to restart play after the pandemic shut down seasons around the world in the spring. Its players were also, therefore, the first to assemble after weeks of national protests against racial injustice and police violence, reigniting public debate over whether it’s appropriate for professional athletes to kneel in peaceful protest during the national anthem.

Ertz, the 2019 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, and teammate Casey Short Krueger—one of Chicago’s two Black players—chose to kneel, crying while wrapping their arms around each other for the duration of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the match in Utah.

“We wanted to make sure that whatever we decided to do … it would be a gesture that portrayed that we have heard those who needed to be heard, validated, and loved,” the pair wrote in a joint statement released after the game. Following the game, the NWSL revised its policy to allow players to stand, kneel, or remain in the locker room during the national anthem.

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