Former Football Ferns captain Abby Erceg leads Black Lives Matter protest as US football returns

US women's football has become the first team competition to return from coronavirus shutdown, with players taking the opportunity to support the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

North Carolina captain and former Football Ferns skipper 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 US national anthem. The players also wore BLM T-shirts before kick-off.

That moment continued on in the second match of the day, between Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit.

The lasting image came from Chicagoland native Casey Short, and Red Stars captain Julie Ertz. Short, moved to tears by the moment, was embraced by Ertz, as the two shared a powerful and emotional moment.

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

Current NZ captain Ali Riley's Orlando Pride withdrew from the competition last week, after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The men's Major League Soccer starts in two weeks, while the NBA and WNBA (basketball), the NHL (ice hockey) and Major League Baseball are all several weeks away.

Ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the US anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice and that gesture 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 May 25.

Portland and North Carolina said they were protesting 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."


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