29 Jun 2020

New Zealander leads protest as football returns in the US

12:17 pm on 29 June 2020

America's national women's football league has became the first US team sport to return to competition during the coronavirus pandemic and the players took the opportunity to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

North Carolina captain, New Zealander Abby Erceg, led her side to a 2-1 win over Portland in the first round of the Challenge Cup.

Both teams, along with those involved in the other game took a knee during the American national anthem.

The players also wore T-shirts reading "Black Lives Matter" before kick-off.

Eight of the National Women's Soccer League clubs are playing in the month-long Challenge Cup without spectators in Salt lake City.

Football Ferns captain Ali Riley's Orlando Pride withdrew from the competition last week after six players and four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

The men's MLS starts in two weeks, while the NBA, the WNBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball are all several weeks away.

Ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the US anthem in 2016 in protest against racial injustice.

The protest has taken renewed significance since the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died after being restrained by a white Minneapolis police officer on 25 May.

Portland and North Carolina said it was to protest against "racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism against black people and people of colour".

The joint statement added: "We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard.

"It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone."