Team sport has returned in the United States back with a dramatic opening scene.
The National Women's Soccer League on Saturday became the first North American pro sports league to commence since the pause of sports due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.
The NWSL kicked off its Challenge Cup with a showdown between North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns in Herriman, Utah, on Saturday.
But before the first kick of the ball, players made it clear there were more important things at stake than a soccer game.
All players from both teams took the field wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
And then in a scene never seen before in pro team sports in the US, all players in the starting line-ups took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
"We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism against Black people and people of colour in America," the teams said in a joint statement released before the game.
"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."
A substitute player, members of the coaching staff and the officials appeared to be the only ones to stand during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
The players also wore Black Lives Matter armbands during the game.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season to shine a spotlight on police brutality and racial injustice only to find himself effectively blackballed from the league a year later.
US star Megan Rapinoe joined Kaepernick's movement and took a knee while wearing a national team jersey only to have US Soccer create a policy to force all players to stand.
"You love to see it," Rapinoe, who opted not to join her NWSL club (Reign) for the 8-team, month-long "bubble" tournament in Utah, tweeted of the pre-game scene.
"You love to see these women using their voice, demanding better for America, and for black people and people of colour."
Back-to-back league champions Courage won the 23-game tournament's opening game with a 2-1 win over the Thorns after a stoppage-time goal from Lynn Williams.
Australian Associated Press