‘Fighting for equality’ women’s soccer players on why they take a knee

By Bill Clark , CNN Written by

The French Quarter in New Orleans can be a tourist and music venue in one. For others, like Magdalena Eriksson and Jess Carter , it’s home to their training camp for the upcoming World Cup.

The two are Chelsea Ladies’ Australian-born, Belgium-based defenders, who became the first players in professional soccer to protest racial discrimination by taking a knee during the national anthem prior to their club’s English Premier League match against Everton. The duo will be hoping to take a trophy home when Chelsea faces Manchester City in the world’s most prestigious women’s soccer championship on August 25.

“It’s not about each other, but if you’re a black player and you’re going to stand up for the same rights as white players, then that’s something you’ll have to support, and you’ll have to respect. That’s the rules,” says Carter, who grew up in the US states of Oklahoma and California, before moving to Australia to pursue her sporting career.

Eriksson, a goalkeeper who represented Sweden at the World Cup in 2015, says people don’t usually mention racial discrimination when her teammates talk about their difficult upbringing. But as a minority in a predominantly white sport, she says she has had to keep quiet about it.

“I was never able to speak up about my experiences growing up, because I was just different to many of the white players on the team, and I was scared to,” Eriksson says. “When someone does something like that, you’re not prepared for it, and you don’t have that mindset. The last thing I want is for other players to be scared of speaking up, or to not be able to speak up for something like that, because then it is an issue.”

Chelsea teammates Magdalena Eriksson and Jess Carter during an appearance on “60 Minutes”. Credit: via Chelsea FC/YouTube

Eriksson and Carter hope they’ve “opened a door” and inspired other players to challenge racial injustice. So far, though, they’ve seen very little impact on their careers. Eriksson says despite recent coverage of the anthem protest, it’s being almost ignored by the media. Carter says while the situation “is important, it’s not the most important thing.”

“I think the most important thing is that people can find something they care about and draw positive energy from it, and that this is something everyone can find together,” she says.

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