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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.

Chicago Red Stars’ Rachel Hill puts her hand on the shoulder of Casey Short who is hugging Julie Ertz during the national anthem before Saturday night’s match.AP

“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.”

Players for the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage collectively knelt during the national anthem Saturday as they opened the Challenge Cup tournament. A few players, including Hill, chose to stand as the anthem was played before the late game between the Red Stars and Spirit.

While it is customary that only starters are on the field during the anthem, the entire squads for the four teams that played Tuesday took the field before their games. Most, but not all, knelt.

Players and coaches have also worn Black Lives Matter T-shirts in warmups before games, and players have also knelt during a moment of silence before kickoffs.

The NWSL players association released a statement in support of all players, no matter their decision.

“The Players Association supports both making a clear statement that Black Lives Matter and each player making a personal decision around whether to stand or kneel during the national anthem,” the union said. “We ask that our supporters and media respect each player’s right to handle these moments in the way that they choose and know that our players are united against racism and in support of one another.”

After some players were criticized, the league announced Monday that it would allow players to remain in the locker room during the anthem.

“The NWSL stands behind every player, official and staff member. Kneel on the field. Stand with your hand over your heart. Honor your feelings in the privacy of the locker room or at midfield,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement announcing the policy change. “The NWSL is a league that was built on diversity and courage and those principles will continue to drive us forward.”

The NWSL is the first professional team sports league in the United States to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. The teams had gathered for training camps in March when the league was shut down.

The tournament opener between the Thorns and the Courage was broadcast nationally on CBS and the network announced Tuesday that the game averaged 572,000 viewers, a record for the NWSL.

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Shocking moment US federal agent shoots peaceful protester, 26, in the head with a ‘rubber bullet’ during a demonstration in Portland – as local officials blame President Trump for the bloodshed

A peaceful protester in Oregon, armed with only a music speaker, was shot in the head with 'rubber bullet' and severely injured by federal agents deployed by President Trump. 

The disturbing incident happened  across the street from the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in Portland during a demonstration against police brutality and racism on Saturday. 

The shooting was widely condemned by local and state officials who've shifted blame onto President Trump after he sent federal agents to quell protests without their consent.

Many said Trump was responsible for the bloodshed last weekend, who on Friday encouraged a more aggressive approach by federal Homeland Security personnel.


Footage shared on Instagram and YouTube by videographer Tomas Morales shows Donavan La Bella, 26, hoisting a music speaker into the air across from authorities.

The authorities, reported to be federal agents, have closed off the area surrounding the courthouse while in riot gear. 

The authorities throw a smoking canister at the peaceful protesters, but La Bella softly kicks it out of the way and toss it back.

Seconds later, a shot rings out and La Bella's body crumples to the ground as nearby protesters scream in fear. 

Donovan La Bella (pictured) was holding a music speaker during a protest on Saturday night when he was shot in the head with 'less lethal' munition by federal agents

An agent opened fire at La Bella after he softly tossed back a smoking canister they hurled at peaceful protesters and began playing music again 

The victim's mother said La Bella (pictured) suffered fractures to his head and skull, and has undergone facial reconstruction surgery 

The group rallies around La Bella, who is lying on the ground with a large gash in his head and blood seeping out onto the concrete sidewalk.

A handful of protesters lift La Bella's limp body and rush him away from the scene.

Another video shared by videographer Garrison Davis shows a chilling trail of blood starting from the street and across the sidewalk as La Bella is carried away.

In the video, Davis can be heard saying La Bella was hit in the face with 'what appears to be an impact munition.'

La Bella received some medical treatment at the scene and was transported to a local hospital by emergency crews.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. Fellow protesters lifted La Bella off the ground and carried him to safety as he bled out on the sidewalk (pictured)

The officers have a shot someone in the head with what appears to be an impact munition, there is a lot of blood. #blacklivesmatter   #pdx #portlandoregon #oregon #blm #acab #portland #justicecenter

— Garrison Davis (Teargas Proof) (@hungrybowtie) July 12, 2020

The person that was shot has left In an ambulance. #blacklivesmatter   #pdx #portlandoregon #oregon #blm #acab #portland #justicecenter

— Garrison Davis (Teargas Proof) (@hungrybowtie) July 12, 2020 RELATED ARTICLES
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Bystanders who witnessed the incident said authorities fired a 'less lethal' munition at La Bella, while the Daily Beast identified it as a rubber bullet. 

Impact munition, like rubber bullets and plastic projectiles, are meant to typically intended to be fired at arms and legs to avoid serious injury.

Caitlyn Sakelik, one of La Bella's friends who witnessed the incident, told Oregon Public Broadcast that he had been nonviolent the entire time.

'He’s been completely nonviolent the entire time he’s been down there, He helps deescalate situations. Out of all people, he’s one of the nicest kids you will ever meet

The victim's mother, Desiree La Bella, told Oregon Live that her son's face and skull were fractured by the munition. He underwent facial reconstructive surgery on Sunday morning.

'He still has a tube in his skull to drain the blood,' said Desiree.  

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT.Pictured: Blood left behind at the scene after a federal agent struck La Bella in the head  on Saturday night

Although still hospitalized, La Bella has been responsive to doctors and has use of his limbs

Protesters in Portland this weekend set fire to a dumpster on Sunday and rolled it into an intersection during a demonstration 

She added that La Bella needs neurological checks every hour, is showing signs of confusion and had an MRI for vision difficulties in his left eye.

But at the moment La Bella is responsive to doctors, as well as able to move his arms and legs. 

A GoFundMe for La Bella was created to help cover medical and living costs. 

Desiree said she planned on contacting an attorney on her son's behalf on Monday, but local officials have already called for investigations into the concerning matter.

Oregon officials have been at odds with Trump as his heavy-handed, military focused response to Black Lives Matter protests have clashed with local protocols.

Tensions have continued to mount as different restrictions and orders have been given to the two agencies.

Portland Police Bureau officers and local authorities have been barred from using crowd control munitions against non-violent protesters - but not federal agents.

Federal agents also used tear gas over the weekend, which has been temporarily banned from the Portland Police Bureau by federal court order unless they declare a riot.

Policing has become more complicated in Portland with the presence of federal agents because they're not held to the same protocols or restrictions as local authorities 

Portland Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis admitted that federal agents (pictured) don't coordinate with his department and 'it does complicate things for us'

Portland Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis told Associated Press that federal agents don't coordinate with his agency and that 'it does complicate things for us.' 

In a statement on Sunday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said that he's already spoke with U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams about the investigation.

'I am calling on the federal government to be thorough and transparent with their findings. I'm concerned that the actions of federal officers last night escalated, rather than de-escalated, already heightened tensions in our city,' he wrote. 

The U.S. Marshals Service is investigating the incident. 

Protests in Portland began in after Memorial Day when George Floyd, an unarmed father-of-five, who died after a white Minneapolis Police Department officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Footage of the incident sparked Black Lives Matter protests that brought a reckoning across the United States on issues surrounding police brutality and racism.

Protests in Portland, which have seen arson incidents and intense clashes with law enforcement, have reportedly focused on federal property and the courthouse. 

Demonstrations last weekend saw several fires set ablaze, including an effigy of a police officer wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, according to Oregon Live.

People can be heard chanting: 'Whose streets? Our streets!' 

Protesters set fire to a cardboard drawn-out police officer with a KKK hoodie in downtown #Portland . Stay tuned for updates on the ground

— Jorge Ventura Media (@VenturaReport) July 11, 2020

An effigy of a police officer wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood is set on fire as Portland, Oregon, on Friday 

Another fire was lit in a dumpster and rolled into the middle of a Portland intersection.

Authorities said several people were taken into custody after pointing lasers into the eyes of federal agents and at least two people were seized for reportedly trying to damage the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building with a hammer.  

President Trump while speaking at a military base near Miami, Florida, on  Friday explained his rationale for sending in federal agents without getting the OK from Oregon officials.   

'It was out of control,' he told DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. 'The locals couldn't handle it and you people are handling it very nicely.'

President Trump (pictured) deployed DHS federal officers to Portland because 'It was out of control' and 'The locals couldn't handle it'

But that's not how local and state officials have seen it. 

Sen. Ron Wyden on Sunday directly called out the President and questioned why federal agents were acting as an 'occupying army.

'The consequences of Donald Trump unilaterally dispatching fed’l law enforcement into U.S. cities played out in Portland w/a peaceful protester shot in the head,' he wrote.

'Trump & Homeland Security must now answer why fed’l officers are acting like an occupying army.' 

Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a statement: 'Given President Trump’s misuse of force against protesters outside the White House and elsewhere, the deployment of federal agents in Portland raises serious concerns.

'What was their mission? Did they abuse peaceful protesters? Were their uniforms accurately marked? Did they made the situation worse? What weapons did they use? Were they invited by Portland police or local officials?'

Several Oregon politicians blamed President Trump for La Bella's injuries and bloodshed

Sen. Jeff Merkley: 'Given President Trump’s misuse of force against protesters outside the White House and elsewhere, the deployment of federal agents in Portland raises serious concerns'

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also pointed a finger at Trump for the events that led up to La Bella's injuries.

 'The events of last night at the federal courthouse were the tragic and avoidable result of President Donald Trump, for weeks, continuing to push for force and violence in response to protests,' wrote Brown.

'The cycle of violence must end.' 

Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly blasted Trump for caring more about 'monuments and buildings' than civilians.

La Bella (pictured) needs neurological checks every hour, is showing signs of confusion and had an MRI for vision difficulties in his left eye.

'It’s unfortunate that Trump cares more about protecting monuments and buildings than he does people’s lives and constitutional rights,' told The Oregonian/Oregon Live.

'We didn’t invite or ask for this overblown intervention by the federal government.'

Eudaly was referencing to Trump's announcement that demonstrators who tear down Confederate and American monuments could face 10 years in jail. 

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty warned that a 'life will be take' as federal agents being in Portland has caused mounting tension.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty also voiced her concerns about federal agents being deployed to Portland

She blamed federal agents for 'reckless and aggressive behavior' that resulted in La Bella's injuries 

Hardesty: 'If this continues a life will be taken and it won’t matter whether a federal officer or Portland Police officer did it – it won’t bring that person back'

'Last week it was disconcerting to see militarized federal officers with war weapons embedded with the Portland Police Bureau and stationed around Portland,' wrote Hardesty.

'Since then their presence brought on an escalation of violence towards protesters an extreme response to a movement challenging police violence. This reckless and aggressive behavior has now put someone in the hospital. This protester is still fighting for their life and I want to be clear: this should never have happened.

'If this continues a life will be taken and it won’t matter whether a federal officer or Portland Police officer did it – it won’t bring that person back.' 

But Desiree says the fault lies less with Trump and more with the individual officers at the scene.  

'In my opinion, the fault lies with the feds at the scene needlessly firing into a generally peaceful unarmed crowd and aiming for the head,' she told OPB.

'It is my understanding that nonlethal rounds are not to be aimed at vital organs and no rounds of any kind should be shot at any unarmed person.'

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