Last week during the launch of the NSWL's 2020 Challenge Cup, Chicago Red Stars soccer player Rachel Hill made headlines for choosing to remain standing during the national anthem — while the rest of her team kneeled.
Her teammates kneeling in support of "black lives matter" protests included Julie Ertz and Casey Short, who embraced with tears next to her. While the anthem played, Hill bowed her head and placed her hand on Short's shoulder.
Rachel Hill of the Chicago Red Stars one of my new favorite athletes. https://t.co/3LjRCl87RE— DSIMPS14 (@DSIMPS14) 1593390308.0
After images from the pregame activities emerged, social media users both criticized and applauded the 25-year-old Hill for her decision to stand.
Likely as a result of the pressure of being in the national spotlight, Hill posted an explanation of her decision on Instagram, Wednesday, saying the decision to stand was one that "did not come easily or without profound thought."
"Before the game, I was completely torn on what to do," she said. "I spoke with friends, family, and teammates — of all races, religions and backgrounds — with the hope of guidance."
Hill then explained that while she supported the message of kneeling, she chose to stand for the anthem on behalf of the military members of her family.
"I chose to stand because of what the flag inherently means to my military family members and me, but I 100% percent support my peers," she said. "Symbolically, I tried to show this with the placement of my hand on Casey's shoulder and bowing my head."
"If this wasn't clear, let my words and further actions be," she added. "I support the black lives matter movement wholeheartedly. I also support and will do my part in fighting against the current inequality. As a white athlete, it is way past due for me to be diligently anti-racist."
Video of the pregame activities shows that while every one of Hill's teammates chose to kneel, a few players on the opposing team, the Washington Spirit, opted to stand like Hill.
In a joint statement with Ertz regarding their decision to kneel, Short specifically addressed a conversation she had with Hill following the game.
"I, Casey, can only speak for myself but the conversations I have had with players, specifically Rachel, have been unapologetically authentic," Short said. "I have to ask where my hope lies. It lies in my faith and those types of conversations that have been long overdue. The types of conversations that are raw and uncomfortable, that can lead to real impactful change."
In a statement released Sunday, the National Women's Soccer League said that while it is "proud" of its players for bringing attention to social justice, it is supportive of all players regardless of their "personal decision" to stand or kneel during the anthem.
The Spirit won the game 2-1.