Brianne Reed is a U.S. pro soccer player currently competing for FC Nordsjælland. Recently she led her teammates and competitors in taking a knee in solidarity with those fighting for justice and equality for Black lives, a first gesture of its kind for athletes in Denmark. Below she tells her story in her own words.
It’s easy to feel kinda lost right now.
At least that’s how I feel. I’m currently living in Denmark playing soccer professionally amid two pandemics that are taking over our world: coronavirus and racism.
I feel like there are two different movies playing in my life right now. On one side, I’m here in Denmark and we are entering into the wonderful world of Scandinavian summer, which means lots of sunshine with no humidity and midnight sunsets. AND I am back playing the sport that I love so much.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
On the other side, USA, my home, seems like it’s on fire. Black lives are being taken from us at an alarming rate, and finally people are seeing how much of a problem this really is.
And because people are seeing the problem, they are acting out. They are protesting, rioting, looting, and expressing their anger and despair in as many ways as possible to be heard. And on top of that, coronavirus is still among us.
Torn Between Two Worlds
Half of me is focused on my soccer season here, and the other half of me is signing petitions, reading, learning, listening and staying up-to-date with all the current events in the U.S.
I was having a really good conversation with one of the staff in my club about racism in the U.S. and how it presents itself in sports. He mentioned to me that our men’s team was considering taking a knee in their match.
In a very secretive place in my brain I had also been thinking about kneeling but didn’t know how something like that would be received here. I mean, look what happened to Colin Kaepernick. But when he mentioned it, it was the validation I needed to go through with it.
I started by asking one of my teammates what she thought of the idea, and she was in full support. The next step was getting the whole team to agree with it. Then we thought that it would also be awesome if we could have both teams take a knee to show that this is a united stand we are taking against racism.
I wanted my teammates to understand why this was important to me. I explained that as a member of the Black community this was something that has been on my heart the past few weeks.
I explained about the death of George Floyd (and way too many other names that need to continue to be said) and police brutality and just the general problem of racism in America. I felt the need to explain some of this to my teammates because most of the media Denmark was sharing was about protesting and riots and looting. I wanted them to know HOW and WHY all of this was happening.
I also extended it beyond the U.S. borders and brought up the fact that racism is not just a problem in the U.S., but a global problem as well.
Danes have this thing called “hyggeracisme” which directly translated is “cozy racism.” It is basically racist comments that are made but are covered up by sarcasm or the “Danish sense of humor.” And it’s hard for them to see it as racism because they just see it as, “Oh, I was just joking,” so they don’t necessarily see the problem.
So it’s finally gameday, and I have been thinking about how this would go all week -- just praying that it would make the right statement and that everything would go smoothly. Then the referee blew the whistle and I watched as 21 other players took a knee for the first 30 seconds of the match.
I still get chills just writing about this moment. The silence was so beautiful that I actually started to tear up but realized that I also had to be ready to play in just a few seconds so I had to pull myself together.
My words can’t explain how special that moment was. And I understand that taking a knee was for reasons bigger than my own experiences with racism, but on a personal level I felt very seen and heard in a country that was not my home.
Who Am I?
Now let me show you the little journey God has taken me on and how He has made His own little agenda out of this:
· Our game was nationally televised, which is rare for women’s soccer in Denmark, which meant that we had the whole country’s attention when we took a knee.
· I was made aware the next day that us taking a knee was the first time athletes in Denmark have ever done something like that.
· A few days after that, I was asked to be interviewed for an article in the national newspaper that became the cover story and the most read sports article in the paper’s history. I had random older Danish people reach out to me on Facebook to message me and tell me how they were impacted by my story.
· And a few days after that, I was asked on a national Danish radio station to talk about kneeling and my experiences and thoughts on racism.
· And a few days after that, I was asked to write this piece.
THIS IS NOT ME. I don’t tell you these things to seem braggy, I’m trying to show you how much I have not been in control of this and how it’s been God’s hand over it the whole way.
These are not things I would ever feel comfortable doing and even now it’s still uncomfortable. I literally called out a country on their hidden racism. WHO EVEN AM I?!
But I feel like God has gently pushed (picture it more like when you are walking next to your friend and they put out their foot to trip you, hehe!) me through each door He has opened. He has given me small validations along the way that have made me feel like each step is the right step.
He took a very small action and gave it reach far beyond my 1,700 followers on social media. He used my voice internationally, and I feel humbled and honored that He would choose to use me in this.
It is frequently said that athletes have a platform. I’ve heard it a million and one times but have never really used my own platform. Until now.
Use Your Voice
God has shown me my own voice in all of this. I am now not afraid to have conversations with people about race. And now people feel comfortable talking with me about it. And a dialogue has been created and a space opened for us to move toward ending racism.
Amidst all of the amazing things God is using me for, I’m feeling so totally overwhelmed and trying to remain hopeful, but it’s so hard right now. And I’ve tried to turn to the Bible to find that perfect verse that makes everything seem right again. I haven’t found it yet for this time.
Everything in me wants to sprinkle some sunshine and magic over all of this and open my eyes and see that it’s fixed, but that’s not how this is going down. For the first time, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in the pain in trying to understand why God would let such injustices happen.
I’ve tried reading through some of the Psalms by reading other people’s prayers as my own because sometimes I can’t find the words to say. When I can find the words, my prayers sound something like, “I can’t see how You can let this happen to my people, but I’m really trying to believe in Your power and goodness and justice, and that change can and will be made.”
Live Out Your Faith
With that being said, I encourage you to reflect and spend time thinking about racism and how it has played a role in your life, REGARDLESS of what you look like. Sit through the uncomfortable parts of it and talk about it with people who love and care for you.
James 2:14-26 talks about faith and action. Take a minute and go read it. I challenge you to read that passage and work in the idea of racism.
Think about everything that is going on right now. People are vocal. People are signing petitions. People are showing up to support The Movement for Black Lives. But all of this WITHOUT ACTION means nothing.
We can talk about racism and have endless conversation which are a big part of doing the work, but if you aren’t willing to take what you have learned from podcasts or books or these conversations, and you can’t actively try to apply them in your life and make a change, then it all means nothing, and we can’t continue to make progress.
I think that when you seek Jesus in this time, the actions will pour out from you naturally. It will not seem forced because it is the Spirit working in and through you.
When Jesus saw injustice, He addressed it, He didn’t let it just pass by. As followers of Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we are called to do the same. And I think it’s time for us to step up to that challenge.
No one will do it perfectly because we are all broken people, but let’s take the steps, keep praying for change, and watch how God works.