Chicago Red Stars forward Rachel Hill explains choice to stand for national anthem

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Following a statement from the teammates who knelt next to her during the national anthem in a widely shared image from the opening day in the NWSL Challenge Cup, Chicago Red Stars forward Rachel Hill explained her choice to stand before a game against Washington Spirit.

Hill offered her perspective in an Instagram post Tuesday, stating she "wholeheartedly" supports the Black Lives Matter movement and finds the racism the Black community encounters every day "unacceptable."

"When I stood for the national anthem before the Chicago Red Stars' most recent game, this was a decision that did not come easily or without profound thought," Hill wrote. "Before the game, I was completely torn on what to do. I spoke with friends, family, and teammates -- of all races, religions and backgrounds -- with the hope of guidance. I chose to stand because of what the flag inherently means to my military family members and me, but I 100% support my peers.

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"Symbolically, I tried to show this with the placement of my hand on Casey's shoulder and bowing my head. I struggled, but felt that these actions showed my truth, and in the end I wanted to remain true to myself."

Teammates with Chicago since 2016 and also many times for the United States women's national team, Julie Ertz and Casey Short knelt together during the anthem played before Chicago's opening game. Photos and videos captured their hands intertwined in the moments before the music began. Then Short, her head bowed and at times resting against Ertz's head as the two leaned close, appeared to weep openly as the anthem played. Her head cropped out of many photos of that moment, Hill stood next to Short with her hand on her shoulder.

Contrasted against both the unity of all 22 starters kneeling before the tournament opener between North Carolina and Portland, in the Red Stars-Spirit match, there was the moment of unity between Ertz, Hill and Short, but it underscored an anthem during which some players from both teams knelt and some remained standing.

Speaking publicly about the moment for the first time Tuesday, Ertz and Short issued a lengthy joint statement of their own that was posted on Short's Twitter feed and acknowledged that others would choose to see the images through their own lens.

Ertz and Short said they had tried for weeks to answer three questions: What is unity? What does change look like? What does change feel like?

"For the past few weeks, we have shared our stories, we have shared a deep empathy towards one another and ultimately, a common sense of hopelessness," the statement said. "This moment of hopelessness was overwhelming for many reasons including, frustration in not having clear answers for change, the hurt in each other's voices, and our black teammates and friends who have emotionally poured out every ounce of their hearts to us. All of these intense and emotional moments have have been difficult but ultimately very necessary."

The statement also referenced Hill, the only other player directly named.

"[T]he conversations that I have had with players, specifically Rachel, have been unapologetically authentic," Short wrote. "I have to ask where my hope lies. It lies in my faith and those types of conversations that have been long overdue."

In her first season with Chicago after three seasons with Orlando Pride, Hill also spoke about the conversations she had with Ertz and Short, as well as defender Sarah Gorden, whose own Instagram post on why she knelt was also widely shared in the wake of the game.

"Both before and after the game, I've had genuine conversations with many of my teammates, Casey, Julie and Sarah specifically, who have voices I believe need to be amplified, as well as friends and family," Hill wrote. "Opinions have been shared, knowledge gained, tears shed, and support shown. I will continue to learn and grow through each of these valuable conversations, with the hope of creating change to someday reach equality."

Chicago plays its second game in the tournament's preliminary round Wednesday against Portland. The league announced a change in its anthem policy Monday that gives players the option of remaining in the locker room, in addition to the freedom to stand or kneel on the field.