Caeden Price knows why she knelt during the national anthem Sunday.
It's for the same reason most of the Coastal Carolina women's soccer team took a knee before their game, and the reason the visiting Troy Trojans joined them in that demonstration. They wanted to protest systematic racism and police brutality.
"It is hard to be a Black woman," the redshirt sophomore defender said. "It is also hard having a Black father, and a Black boyfriend, and having many Black male friends. I sit and wonder daily how it easily could've been them [killed by police], and that thought alone makes me want to fight."
Before Sunday's match, seven Coastal players knelt at midfield while four others stood. On the sideline, eleven other players took a knee while seven remained standing. Each player who was standing had a hand on the player in front of her in an act of solidarity.
“We have kids of every race and we want to support them,” Coastal women’s soccer coach Paul Hogan said. “We have to support their ability to protest the way they see fit.”
Kneeling during the anthem gained national attention in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing it as a protest. The act became more common among athletes after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota, police in May.
While the protests have been met with some support, the athletes have also faced criticism and been called unpatriotic.
Price tells those who oppose the protests to "put yourself in my shoes."
"America is supposed to be full of equality," she said. "If that was true, this wouldn't even be happening right now. Systematic racism is still prevalent and raw. Do you worry about being followed around a store? Do people look at you when you get out of your car? … Do delivery people look surprised when you open your house door and they see a Black person? How am I supposed to stand for a country who doesn't stand for me?"
Junior forward Loranna Austin is one of the Coastal players who took a knee during the anthem Sunday.
“To know that we are all in this together, it’s exciting,” Austin said. “We are using our platform to be heard and to try to make a change. Seeing both teams doing their own thing … I loved it.”
This is not the first time that a Coastal team has made a public statement about racism. At the end of August, the football program released a video titled "Be The Change."
"Before I'm a student-athlete, I'm African-American," senior defensive tackle C.J. Brewer said in the video. "It has been too many years. When will the change start? It starts with us."
Members of the Coastal women's soccer team have knelt during the national anthem in each of their three games this season, starting with their road trip to Georgia State on Sept. 20.
They made the decision to do this after a practice before the Georgia State match.
"A few of us knew we were going to do it, but we wanted the whole team to be unified," Price said. "We wanted to give people the opportunity to really think and decide what they wanted to do."
During their time in Atlanta, the team visited the John Lewis Mural, which is dedicated to the late Georgia representative who played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement.
“While we were there, we talked about civil rights, civil rights activists and what they’ve done,” Hogan, the coach, said. “It’s not just our Black girls, it is our other girls that have to know who people are, what they have done and what they’ve been through.”
Before the trip to Georgia State earlier in September, Hogan provided biographical information about John Lewis to his players so they could get a better understanding of the impact that Lewis made in the United States.
Hogan, who comes from a law enforcement family, said he is proud that everyone on the team is being supportive.
“My Dad was a New York City policeman and my uncle is a cop, too, but I still support these kids,” Hogan said. “I still believe in what they’re doing, what they’re saying and I’ll always support them.”
Price stressed that change will not come from silence.
"We must be loud," she said. "This is a fight for equality, and I will continue to fight until I see true change."