Former Seattle Reign FC player Sydney Leroux is playing for more than herself now. She’s playing for all her FC Kansas City and U.S. teammates, for the fans who follow her career, and most importantly, her son Cassius.
“My entire life is that baby,” Leroux told Excelle Sports earlier this year. “Before he was born, soccer was everything in my entire life. If I was in a hole, it was an awful hole. If I was doing well, it was the best. But now I have my son, and no matter what, it’s always the best.”
Leroux was thinking of Cassius on Sunday evening in the moments before Kansas City stepped onto the field at Memorial Stadium. As many of her teammates walked out for introductions, Leroux remained in the locker room — sitting out during the flag and national anthem ceremony to push for racial equality and speak out against police brutality.
She was joined by Reign FC’s Elli Reed, Megan Rapinoe, Madalyn Schiffel, Lauren Barnes and Diana Matheson, and FCKC starters Yael Averbuch, Desiree Scott, and Becky Sauerbrunn, the current U.S. Women’s National Team captain.
After the match, Leroux reflected on her decision to join Rapinoe and her peers in sitting out during the anthem.
“I have a baby and I want him to look up to me and be proud of who I am and what I stand for,” Leroux said, while also praising the women who joined her. “I think that speaks volumes to have other people who aren’t necessarily women of color to come and say, ‘No, something needs to change.’ I’m so honored to play with people like that.”
For Leroux, taking a stand is more important than the volumes of people reached by her actions. “I remember someone saying something about Pinoe when she knelt about, ‘Oh, well you did it in front of 23 people in comparison to the NFL players doing it in front of thousands and on TV.’ And I think that what’s important is, for me in my heart, that’s the right thing to do.”
It helps to have a supportive coach in Vlatko Andonovski as well, who said after the match, “I support my players with their individual decisions in any way possible — regardless of what it is. I support the players who stepped out for the national anthem and I support the ones who stayed in the locker room.”
Leroux walked off the field assisting on FC Kansas City’s lone goal, which was all her team needed to leave Memorial Stadium with a win. But showing her son — who giggled as he was passed around by the team after the match — what his mom stands for will likely be the more memorable action for Leroux this evening.