Ertz, Short say soul-searching led to vulnerability on field

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Chicago Red Stars' Julie Ertz, left, holds Casey Short after players for their team knelt during the national anthem before an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match against the Washington Spirit at Zions Bank Stadium, Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Herriman, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Chicago Red Stars teammates Julie Ertz and Casey Short say hard conversations over the past several weeks led to their vulnerability in the moment they shared an emotional embrace while they knelt during the national anthem as the NWSL opened its season.

Short sobbed as she was held by Ertz before Chicago's match against the Washington Spirit on Saturday night, the second game of the National Women's Soccer League tournament in Utah.

“Currently, every time the national anthem is played, our country continues to become more and more divided on what the visual symbol of unity looks like,” Short and Ertz said in a joint statement they released Tuesday. "Through our continuous conversations we wanted to make sure that whatever we decided to do, it would not be an empty gesture. 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.”

Short was not made available for comment after the match, so the context of the moment wasn't known. Teammate Rachel Hill, who stood during the anthem and put a hand on Short’s shoulder, also was not made available for comment following the game.

“The two of us have always set out to be our honest and true selves, but have struggled to find the “right” thing to do in order to show our truth. We understand people are entitled to their opinions. Often these opinions are presented through the individual’s lens and do not accurately portray how the two of us truly feel,” Short and Ertz said.

Hill posted a statement to Instagram on Tuesday night, saying the decision did not come easily.

"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,” Hill wrote. “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. 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.”