The players and staff of German Bundesliga team Hertha Berlin linked arms and knelt for about 12 seconds before their match against FC Schalke on Saturday in solidarity with NFL players who have protested racial injustice and police brutality.
As the players and staff knelt, a stadium announcer explained the gesture to fans. “Berlin is colorful,” the PA announcer reportedly said. “Hertha BSC stands for diversity and against violence. For this reason, we are joining forces with the protest of our fellow American athletes to take a stand against discrimination. For a tolerant Berlin, both now and forevermore.”
A similar statement on the club’s Twitter account read: “Hertha BSC stands for tolerance and responsibility! For a tolerant Berlin and an open-minded world, now and forevermore!”
Dozens of NFL players have knelt during the American national anthem before games ever since Colin Kaepernick initiated the protest – which is not a protest of the national anthem, but rather of social injustice – over a year ago. The NFL protests became more widespread when President Donald Trump called players who knelt for the anthem “sons of bitches.”
The protest spread to baseball when Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel for the anthem. Players in other American leagues, such as the WNBA and NBA, have also spoken out against discrimination and racism.
Players in the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States have staged similar protests during the anthem. Most recently, several players stayed in the stadium’s tunnel during the anthem before a match between the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City. U.S. women’s national team player Megan Rapinoe – one of those Seattle players – was one of the first American athletes to express her support for Kaepernick. She also knelt during the anthem before U.S. national team games before the U.S. Soccer Federation implemented a policy requiring players to stand.
The German national anthem is not played before Bundesliga games – the playing of the national anthem before normal league games is not customary in Europe – but Hertha Berlin took a moment out of its pregame routine specifically to make this statement.
Hertha’s current squad features players of 12 different nationalities. Its matchday squad featured 10, and its starting lineup featured seven.
Hertha is believed to be the first European soccer team to kneel in solidarity with the American protests.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.