Give Jasmyne Spencer a minute or a lifetime, and she’s going to leave an indelible mark.
Lately, the OL Reign forward is doing so through clothing and education. She started her own label, Jas It Up, in 2017 to create eco-conscious apparel. In her personal mission, combined with her club’s want to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Spencer collaborated to design the T-shirts her team wore for its National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup opener on Tuesday.
Spencer said the pre-match moments where the Reign joined with the game’s officials and Sky Blue FC to lock arms and kneel together during the playing of the national anthem was profound. The timing of the league’s tournament in Utah prevented Spencer from manufacturing the shirts on a larger scale, but her logo is emblazoned on the right sleeve.
“For the first time I have probably the greatest reach that I’ve ever had as a Black female professional athlete,” Spencer told media via a video conference call Friday. “So, the important thing for me to do is make sure the message continues to get heard for as long as possible. If that means kneeling, then I’m going to keep kneeling.”
During the tournament’s downtime, Spencer is sewing excess fabric to make 100 masks to donate to the International Rescue Committee to help slow the coronavirus pandemic. And she’s joined with the other Black women on the Reign roster to lead teammates in a book club to prompt uncomfortable conversations about racism, the team keeping specific details private.
“Just helping to paint the picture of why we wound up this far gone and maybe working out ways to work backwards to break down systemic racism,” Spencer said. “But you have to educate yourself before you can make a difference. The book club is giving us all the opportunity to do that and be on the same page as we do it.”
The busy schedule is preferred in comparison to last season. Spencer tore her ACL in the first match of the 2019 season. She said she was alone for most of her rehab, with the NWSL’s delay of its scheduled April opening this tear providing her more time to completely recover.
Spencer entered Tuesday’s match in the 75th minute. Her breakaway shot on goal in the 85th minute helped the Reign outshoot Sky Blue 13-8 in the eventual scoreless draw.
The Reign plays its second preliminary-round match against the Houston Dash on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT. The match from Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, can be seen online through CBS All-Access.
The Dash finished in a 3-3 draw against the host Utah Royals FC on Tuesday.
“I definitely wouldn’t say I’m back to myself,” Spencer said. “I think it’s going to take a couple more games for sure to get back to the speed of play and the decision-making. But it was great, and I loved every minute of it.”
The Reign will again be without center midfielder Jess Fishlock (right leg) and forward Sofia Huerta (right hamstring). Rookie midfielder Kelcie Hedge suffered a season-ending ACL tear in her right knee during training Wednesday.
“With the first match out of the way, I think some of the restlessness is gone from the team,” Reign coach Farid Benstiti said in audio provided by the club. “The second game is always easier. After you play a real match, you become familiar with each other. Our defense was good in the first game; now I want for us to be more efficient in front of goal.”