NWSL investigating Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden’s accusation of racial profiling after Challenge Cup openerAnnie Costabileon April 10, 2021 at 6:08 pm

Chicago Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden (11) prepares to kick the ball during an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match, Friday, April 9, 2021, in Houston. | Matt Patterson/AP

Gorden said her and her boyfriend, who are Black, were harassed by a security guard at BBVA Stadium in Houston after he tried to speak with her near the field following the opening match.

The National Women’s Soccer League has opened an investigation into claims that Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden and her boyfriend were racially profiled after the opening match of the Challenge Cup tournament, the league told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.

In a Twitter thread published Saturday morning, Gorden said she and her boyfriend, who are Black, were harassed by a security guard at BBVA Stadium in Houston when her boyfriend tried to speak with her near the field after the Red Stars’ scoreless draw against the Houston Dash.

Gorden also said security threatened to arrest her boyfriend if he came closer to the pitch.

“My boyfriend came to our game against the Houston Dash. After the game he came down the steps to talk to me. We were immediately (before he was close to me) followed by security and told he would be arrested if he came close,” Gorden tweeted. “Meanwhile white players were talking to white family [sic] all over the stadium.”

Gorden said she didn’t think the security guard’s threat was racially motivated until she saw white players with their families.

“At first I didn’t realize this was a racial issue until I saw white Houston Dash players surrounding the stadium talking closely to their family and we were the only ones targeted,” Gordon continued.

In her final tweet, Gorden said: “This is just another reason why we kneel.”

The Dash issued a statement Saturday afternoon that said staff was focused on preventing violations of the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

Gorden didn’t immediately return the Sun-Times’ request for comment. The NWSL said it saw Gorden’s Twitter thread and was looking into the allegations.

“Racial profiling and discrimination have no place in this league, and we are investigating the matter according to league process,” the league said in a statement.

The Red Stars said they’ve been in communication with the Dash about the matter.

“The Chicago Red Stars have been in touch with Houston Dash and the league to understand what occurred. We are awaiting a statement from Houston on the matter,” the Red Stars said in a statement.

Gorden, a member of the Black Women’s Player Collective, which was announced in October, has used her platform to be a fierce activist for social justice and the fight against systemic racism. She launched a nonprofit, HoodSpace, in 2020 that’s focused on young Black women finding space through meditation, yoga and sport while prioritizing mental health.

Last summer, in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, players wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts and knelt during the national anthem, but not all league members continued to participate in the gesture as the Challenge Cup progressed.

One of the league’s community initiatives during the tournament last year was establishing the Verizon Community Shield award. More recently, the league announced Nationwide as an official league partner, and part of that sponsorship includes expanding the league’s community initiatives. Additionally, an inaugural community impact award was announced as part of that multiyear sponsorship deal.

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