The courage of American anti-racist Samantha who does not kneel


Sam’s choice. It’s the last Saturday in June and the stands of Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, are empty. There is no audience, only cameras, a few photographers and a handful of journalists. The women’s soccer league starts again with the Challenge Cup. It is the first sporting event in an America still devastated by contagion. It is not a return to normal. It is a hope. These are difficult days. The death of George Floyd, suffocated by a policeman in Minneapolis, has reopened the veins of the United States, a nation that cannot deal with the deep wound of racism. It is always there, and it returns and re-emerges and unhinges the foundations of the social contract.

The match that is about to begin is between the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thoms. It’s time for the national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner. The stars and stripes flag looks for a little wind. The girls on the field wear the black shirt of the Black Lives Matter and an antivirus mask. The notes leave. They all kneel and put their hands behind their backs. All but one.

It is Samantha Leshnak, the reserve goalkeeper of the Courages. Sam bears his fate in the name. Her hair is tied up in a blonde tail. He is standing, only her, with his right hand clasped to his chest. The black shirt is what unites it to all the others. She is the anomaly, the deviant, the one outside the pack. It is both scandal and courage.

This image bounces with a doubt and a question. Is Sam’s choice racist? His answer is no. He wears the Black Lives shirt because he does not recognize himself in a state that kills. It is not an accomplice to racial, religious or sexual discrimination. It is not on the side of those who trample on individual rights. On the other hand, not even a privileged white woman is heard.

Sam is twenty three years old. She is married and comes from Liberty, Ohio. His choice is not binary. It is not black or white. It is not even a compromise. It is something more subtle and profound. Samantha does not deny the flag. She is a patriot. He presents himself in front of that symbol with the traditional canon, with his hand to his heart. His countercurrent gesture hides a hope or, for the most skeptical, a utopia. What she dreams of is an America, with all it represents, without the stain and shame of slavery and racism. It is making sense of the Constitution of the United States of America: “Everyone has all the rights and freedoms, regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion or anything else kind”. It is a principle that should be remembered at all, at the cost of going against the current, standing.

It is that stars and stripes flag that finally tries to go further, to recognize itself in what it wanted to be and never was.

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