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USWNT feels England’s support with ‘Protect the Players’ moment

England and U.S. women's national team players hold a "Protect the Players" sign before their friendly on Friday. (Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team and England joined together before kickoff of their friendly match on Friday to hold a teal banner reading “Protect the Players.” The demonstration followed a report U.S. Soccer released Monday by former U.S. attorney general Sally Yates that revealed the findings of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in the NWSL.

U.S. head coach Vlatko Anonovski said after the USWNT’s 2-1 loss that the players uniting in front of the sold-out crowd at Wembley Stadium in London was a “very special moment.”

“It gave me goosebumps,” he said. “And to see the support from the fans that applauded the moment, I thought that was incredible and it was a statement. It was a statement that we have to stop the sexual violence. Once again, the players did an incredible job using this game, this event as a platform to fight against it.”

England forward Beth Mead had told reporters ahead of the game that England wanted to do something to support the Americans.

After holding the banner, players on both teams wore teal armbands throughout the game.

“I think it means everything,” USWNT attacker Megan Rapinoe said of England’s support. “There’s no report that came out [in England], but I’m sure that there could be one, just as there could be one in likely every single country, which is a really sad reality. But I feel like there’s just so much solidarity between the things that we have to fight for.”