NWSL's Julie Ertz, Casey Short pray to God during powerful on-field embrace

In an incredibly poignant display on Saturday, Julie Ertz of the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League consoled tearful teammate Casey Short as both players knelt during the national anthem before their match against the Washington Spirit.

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In light of the racial unrest America has endured, most of the players knelt to protest police brutality and racism. The emotion of the moment brought Short, a defender on the Red Stars and a black woman, to tears. Kneeling beside her, Ertz, a Red Stars captain and white woman, wrapped her arms around Short in solidarity as she shed tears of her own.

The Spirit defeated the Red Stars 2-1 on the first day of the NWSL Challenge Cup qualification round, the first American professional team sports league to return to play after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the lasting image for many will be Ertz and Short and the hope for unity it symbolized.

On her Twitter page Tuesday, Short released a statement on behalf of Ertz and herself to further explain both players’ thoughts and emotions.

“Through our continuous conversations we wanted to make sure that whatever we decided to do, it would not be an empty gesture,” the letter said in part. “It would be a gesture that portrayed that we have heard those who needed to be heard, validated and loved. That moment during the anthem was difficult, very difficult. We are still searching but we are humbled by the outpouring of support. Our actions going forward WILL be the change!

“With all the uncertainty going on in the world, the one constant for us has been Jesus. Those tears were the first time we felt hope in a long time. In a time when we were truly at a loss for words, we prayed. We asked for clarity, we asked for God to clean our hearts, and we asked to come together so that we don’t fall apart. We talked about suffering together to one day being able to rejoice together.”

The letter ended with a reference of 1 Corinthians 12, which says God’s people are all uniquely made, yet all one body in Christ.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” — 1 Corinthians 12:26

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