HERRIMAN, Utah — NWSL's Sky Blue FC, the first local professional sports team to return to action during the coronavirus pandemic, announced that the entire team will take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before their first game.
The club, owned by a group that includes New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy and had moved its home games before the pandemic to Harrison's Red Bull Arena, announced the decision in a statement Tuesday before their opening game against OL Reign at the NWSL Challenge Cup in Herriman, Utah.
"With the exposure the NWSL Challenge Cup is providing, we feel it is our responsibility as citizens and players in this American league to speak up and take action against police brutality and racial injustice," the statement reads. "Today, we will be kneeling during the national anthem in recognition of the systemic racism Black Americans face in a country that values 'liberty and justice for all'."
The statement goes on to say that the team wants to do more than just symbolically protest and announces that for every goal the team scores at the tournament, each player will make a donation to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Their goal, they say, is to "continue the fight for a better America — an America where everyone is proud to stand for the anthem of a country we truly believe represents us all."
The NWSL Challenge Cup makes the league the first American professional team sports league to return from the pandemic. The regular season's cancelation due to the virus led to the creation of the tournament which will act in lieu of the season. Sky Blue will play at least four group stage matches and one knockout round match at the tournament in Utah.
Sky Blue FC NWSL Challenge Cup Schedule
June 30, 10 p.m. — vs. OL Reign
July 4, 12:30 p.m. — vs. Utah Royals
July 8, 10 p.m. — vs. Houston Dash
July 13, 10:30 p.m. — vs. North Carolina Courage