Butler County native gains national attention for standing as teammates kneel for national anthem

Samantha Leshnak-Murphy, a goalie for the North Carolina Courage, a member of the National Women’s Soccer League, stood for the National Anthem Saturday night while her teammates knelled. CONTRIBUTED BY ALEX VEJAR / THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE.

A professional women’s soccer player with Butler County roots has received much attention on social media after a photo appeared of her standing for the national anthem while her teammates took a knee in protest of police brutality and racial injustice.

Samantha Leshnak-Murphy, who attended elementary school in Lakota Local Schools and graduated from Mount Notre Dame High School and the University of North Carolina, is a backup goalie for the North Carolina Courage, a member of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Like her teammates, Leshnak-Murphy wore a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt during warmups before Saturday’s game against the Portland Thorns in Herriman, Utah, and took a knee while the public address announcer at Zions Bank Stadium read a statement to honor victims of racial injustice.

But when the national anthem started, she stood up and placed her right hand over her heart as her teammates stayed on their knees.

Her stepmother, Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix, posted the picture on her Facebook page, and it has received more than 1,000 likes, 344 comments and 311 shares.

Nix said she felt “pride” when she saw the picture of her stepdaughter.

“I know Sam the person,” Nix said. “She is as high quality of person as you will ever meet. She’s very special, very Christian. She loves all people and she loves her country. She’s very grounded to her faith, country and family.”

The Courage and their opponents, the Portland Thorns, released a joint statement.

“We took a knee today to protest racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism against Black people and people of color in America. We love our country and we have taken this opportunity to hold it to a higher standard. It is our duty to demand that the liberties and freedoms this nation was founded upon are extended to everyone,” the statement read.

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