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NWSL: Players can stay in locker room for anthem

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Players in the NWSL Challenge Cup now have the option of remaining in the locker room during the national anthem, the league announced in a statement Monday.

The change comes after the first two games of the league’s return to competition this past weekend produced striking images of most players kneeling during the anthem but some choosing to remain standing — images that arguably overshadowed the games that followed.

“The NWSL stands behind every player, official and staff member,” the league said in a statement that noted it consulted with players, club officials and other stakeholders. “Kneel on the field. Stand with your hand over your heart. Honor your feelings in the privacy of the locker room or at midfield.”

Although there are no fans in attendance for the Challenge Cup, a 23-game month-long tournament in the Salt Lake City area marked the return of professional team-sports leagues in the United States over the weekend. The NWSL continues to play the anthem before games, with all matches televised or streamed online, and Saturday’s broadcasts including the anthem.

All 22 starters knelt during a live performance of the anthem before Saturday’s nationally televised opening game between North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns. Players from those teams then released a joint statement explaining they were protesting “racial injustice, police brutality and systemic racism” with the gesture.

But the images from the day’s second game between Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit were less congruent. Four starters remained standing during the anthem, including at least one from both teams. In the same camera shots, Red Stars and U.S. national team midfielder Julie Ertz appeared to console club and international teammate Casey Short as she wept while the pair knelt.

Ertz and Short did not comment on the moment captured in a photo disseminated on the league’s official Twitter account, with the standing figure of teammate Rachel Hill next to them.

All payers wore Black Lives Matter shirts during the anthem and knelt in a subsequent moment of silence immediately preceding kickoff, as seen across European professional leagues in recent weeks.

Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler tweeted after his team’s game that “We are unanimous and committed in our support of BLM” but that no one should feel pressure to either stand or kneel during the anthem.

“‘[J]udging someone you don’t know is wrong,” Whisler said in a series of tweets. “Making all players stand is wrong. Making all players kneel is wrong. And yes I think the anthem should be separate from players walkouts or not in stadiums for non national games.”

Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden also knelt on the field during the anthem and explained her reasoning in an Instagram post Sunday.

“I’ll stand when the people behind bars aren’t disproportionately black or Latino,” the caption read. “When my son can go to his neighborhood school because it has the same resources as the one we applied to in the wealthy white neighborhood. When black people aren’t denied bank loans or employment for having ‘black names.’

“When black people have more than 2.7% of the countries wealth when they make up 15% of the population. I’ll stand when black mothers aren’t 3x more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. When police officers are held accountable and sent to jail for murdering innocent black men and women. I’ll stand when the country looks the same for my black son as it does for your white son/daughter. Until then, I kneel.”

Washington forward Ashley Hatch was among the starters who chose to stand during the anthem before her team’s game Saturday. Hatch subsequently posted on Instagram that she planned to donate all money from bonuses received for goals to the NAACP and DC Scores, a local organization that “creates neighborhood teams that give kids in need the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life.”

She scored one of Washington’s two goals in its opening win.

“I spent a lot of time learning, trying to understand, and discussing the issues with those closest to me,” Hatch wrote in her post. “I want to be clear that I do my best to love and respect everyone the best way I can because I believe we are all brothers and sisters.”

The tournament resumes Tuesday with Houston Dash playing Utah Royals and Sky Blue playing OL Reign.

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Derby

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Derby County defender Andre Wisdom is currently in hospital after being stabbed during a robbery in Liverpool, the English second-tier club said on Monday.

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“Andre Wisdom has been the victim of an unprovoked assault and robbery. He sustained injuries which resulted in him being admitted to hospital,” said a statement from Derby, who are eighth in the Championship.

“The club will focus its efforts on supporting Andre and his family.”

British media reports said the player was visiting relatives in the Toxteth area of Liverpool when the attack took place.

The 27-year-old had featured in his side’s 2-1 victory over Reading on Saturday.

Wisdom came through Liverpool’s academy and made 14 appearances for their first team.

He signed for Derby in 2017 after a series of loan spells at clubs including West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City and Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg.

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Transfer Talk: Chelsea prepared to offer Man United

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The coronavirus pandemic has made the summer transfer window uncertain, but here are the rumours floating around Europe’s big leagues and beyond.

TOP STORY: Chelsea prepared for ‘persuasive’ Gomes offer

The Independent reports that Chelsea are prepared to make a move for Manchester United midfielder Angel Gomes once he leaves the club.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has all but confirmed that the 19-year-old will leave Old Trafford when his contract expires on Tuesday, after the England U20 international rejected the Red Devils’ £25,000-a-week contract offer, and now it appears as if there is potential for the Blues to swoop in and sign the attacking midfielder to a contract described as “persuasive.”

The teenager is said to have offers on the table from a handful of clubs across world football, with Chelsea among Valencia, Benfica and Hamburg in the leading sides chasing Gomes’ signature.

Hakimi rejects Man United

Real Madrid starlet Achraf Hakimi has rejected a potential move to Manchester United, the Manchester Evening News cites AS as reporting.

Hakimi, who has spent the past two years on loan at Borussia Dortmund, has been unable to convince Zinedine Zidane that he can dislodge Dani Carvajal as the first-choice right-back at the Bernabeu. As a result, he’s now on the verge of completing a move to Inter Milan, with the Red Devils being left in the dust.

The report states that in addition to United, Bayern Munich also made an offer for Hakimi, but the Westfalenstadio veteran ultimately opted for a move to the San Siro.

Arsenal and Newcastle want Weghorst

Arsenal and Newcastle United are just two of several Premier League clubs chasing the signature of Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst, according to Bild.

The report states that the 27-year-old Dutch international will be available for around €35 million after a campaign that saw him score 16 goals and provide three assists in the Bundesliga.

Tap-ins

Leicester City youngster Dennis Gyamfi is set to leave the club on when his contract expires on Tuesday, the Leicester Mercury reports. The young Dutchman has stunned the Foxes with his decision to leave, with the club expecting him to sign a new deal and potentially work his way into the first team. A new contract had been offered to the 18-year-old, but in the end he decided that his future lies elsewhere.

The Daily Mail writes that Newcastle United are contemplating a move for young Montpellier forward Thomas Robert — the son of former Magpies star Laurent Robert. Newcastle are one of many teams monitoring his situation after the 19-year-old turned down a new three-year contract with the French club, with Nice and Rennes both making offers to keep him in Ligue 1.

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U.S.

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United States defender Matt Miazga will be suspended for Reading’s next three matches after getting into a fight with Derby’s Tom Lawrence following a 2-1 loss on Saturday.

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Both players received red cards following the fight in the second tier League Championship on Saturday. Miazga threw a punch, received a head-butt and slapped Lawrence on the face.

It was not the first inappropriate on-field incident Miazga has had in his career. In 2018, while playing for Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, he was fined for grabbing the groin area of an opponent during a match against Heerenveen.

Miazga, a 24-year-old from Clifton, New Jersey, has 18 appearances for the U.S. national team. He signed with Chelsea in January 2016 and was sent to Reading on loan in January 2019.

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