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‘Exhausted’ Canada players join USWNT in on-field protests

Players from the Canada and U.S. women's national teams joined in protest before their SheBelieves Cup match Thursday in Orlando, Florida. (James Williamson/Getty Images)

Thursday night’s SheBelieves Cup match featured as much action off the field as on, as the players of the Canada and U.S. women’s national teams protested inequalities prior to the opening kickoff.

Both teams’ players wore armbands that said “Defend Trans Joy” in support of trans rights. The players also wore purple armbands to signify gender equality, which the USWNT moved toward with its latest collective bargaining agreement and for which the Canada WNT is fighting with its national federation.

Prior to the game, the CANWNT wore purple shirts with a message on them: “Enough is Enough.” The team is in the midst of a dispute with Canada Soccer over equal pay issues, budget cuts and an overall lack of support from the federation.

In a statement, the Canadian Players Association said the team would be wearing purple “as a symbol of protest” due to its relation to gender equality.

“Considering the current circumstances, our players will continue to wear purple until our association has standards in place that ensure equal treatment and opportunity,” the statement read.

Both teams linked arms in solidarity before the kickoff.

“At the start of the eighth edition of the SheBelieves Cup, our players are united in continuing to raise awareness on issues of equality,” the USWNT Players Association said in a statement.

“Although we are now on the other side of this fight and can focus on our play on the field, our counterparts in Canada and elsewhere are experiencing the same pervasive misogyny and unequal treatment that we faced,” the statement continued. “We stand with all women’s footballers in calling attention to their collective fight, but also call on everyone to join and support the fight to eradicate ALL inequality and discrimination that exists in our sport.”

Following the match, which ended in a 2-0 USWNT victory, Canada captain Christine Sinclair addressed the USWNT’s support and the team’s own struggles on the field.

“Obviously we’re fierce competitors on the pitch, but the world of women’s football is very small and ultimately we support each other. The U.S., years ago, fought this fight. And now it’s our turn,” Sinclair said. “Their support has been amazing. They’ve helped really help amplify the message and get it going worldwide.

“We’re just exhausted. The first 10 minutes were rough. But I think there’s only so much people can do. But proud of the fight, I mean, it wasn’t a lack of effort out there tonight. We’ll continue the fight and we’ll move on.”

Canada coach Bev Priestman echoed those sentiments.

“In many ways, you think that your players are superhuman and they’re not,” she said. “And I think, I felt for what was in front of me, frustrated on the sideline of course because we started flat and I think it’s a result of the emotional and the training days lost and you add all those things up, they definitely play into it. Not to make excuses, but I thought the US came out really well.”

After Brazil’s own 1-0 win against Japan earlier in the day, Brazilian players expressed their solidarity with the Canadian team.

“We are together,” Marta said. “Women’s soccer worked so hard for being (at) this level and we can’t regress. We can’t take (a) step back. So we need to fight for everybody, develop for everybody. This is not acceptable.”

Debinha also voiced her support.

“We’re talking about the best team in the world. They just won the Olympic games. This position, I think it’s not good. And of course, we’re always gonna stand with them. And I just think they need respect,” she said. “It’s a shame what is happening, and if they need us for sure, women’s soccer, we’re always going to stand with them.”