Crystal Dunn on USWNT Standing for Anthem: We're 'Past the Protesting Phase'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2021

FILE - United States defender Crystal Dunn (19) moves the ball against Colombia during the second half of an international friendly soccer match in Orlando, Fla., in this Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, file photo. The 28-year-old U.S. national team defender has grown more confident in her abilities and her status on the U.S. women’s national team. She’s also become empowered in her activism as a Black woman. So much so that she even proclaimed herself the
John Raoux/Associated Press

Crystal Dunn explained why members of the United States women's national team chose not to kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to a 2-0 win over Brazil on Sunday.  

In Dunn's view—and the view of her teammates—the USWNT has largely achieved what it could by protesting during the anthem, per ESPN's Jeff Carlisle:

"I think those that were collectively kneeling felt like we were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism. I think we decided that moving forward we no longer feel the need to kneel because we are doing the work behind the scenes. We are combating systemic racism. And we never felt we were going to kneel forever, so there was always going to be a time that we felt it was time to stand. I think we're all proud that we are doing the work behind the scenes and it was just a game that we felt we were ready to move into the next phase and just continuously fight for change."

When Colin Kaepernick brought the protests to life in August 2016 by kneeling during the anthem, it was so effective because it was a subversive act. The reaction inside the NFL spoke to how much he struck a nerve.

During a roundtable discussion with B/R Football last June, Dunn said she wanted to kneel as well in 2016 but was concerned about possible consequences she would face:

B/R Football @brfootball

Crystal Dunn previously said she was afraid to lose her job if she took a knee with Megan Rapinoe during the national anthem in 2016. On Saturday, she and her teammates were finally empowered to do so ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊ (📸 @NWSL) https://t.co/MBolsy13Gv

Years before widespread protests across the country following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Kaepernick created a conversation about police brutality and structural racism. 

Now, the key is continuing the progress that has been made, albeit in different forms.

"Even though we are choosing to stand, it doesn't mean that the conversations go away, or they stop," Dunn said. "It's all to say that we are now, I think, ready to move past the protesting phase and actually move into putting all of the talk into actual work."

WNBA players demonstrated one way when they publicly endorsed Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate race. Warnock ultimately defeated Kelly Loeffler, who owns a stake in the Atlanta Dream, in a runoff election.