Billed as the first professional team-sport event staged in the United States since the novel coronavirus shutdown, and featuring many of the country’s best women’s softball players, a scheduled seven-game series in Florida is on hold amid an uproar over a tweet sent in apparent hopes of meeting with President Trump’s approval.

The tweet, posted by the account for one of the teams involved, included a photo of its players standing for the national anthem before Monday’s Game 1 of the series. Sent while the game between the Scrap Yard Dawgs and USSSA Pride was underway, the Scrap Yard tweet tagged Trump’s Twitter handle while exclaiming, “Everyone respecting the FLAG!”

The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before images of it were saved and circulated online. Among those sharing the tweet was Scrap Yard and U.S. Olympic team outfielder Haylie McCleney, who wrote on social media, “We might be standing in this photo but we SURE AS HELL AREN’T STANDING FOR THIS.”

Telling Scrap Yard she will “never be associated with your organization again,” McCleney added, “I’m embarrassed. I’m heartbroken. I’m DISGUSTED. … BLACK LIVES MATTER. The tone deafness on this is UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!”

Kelsey Stewart, one of the handful of black players on the Scrap Yard and Olympic teams, said on Twitter, “I AM HURT … I am disgusted … as a BLACK softball player I DO NOT … DO NOT stand with a statement like this … if you didn’t understand racism and what was going on the last month. This … THIS IS IT.

“This is EXACTLY what we’ve been trying to change.”

Since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kepernick inspired fellow NFL players and athletes in other sports in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, Trump has been a frequent and vehement critic of those demonstrations. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and subsequent widespread protests, the issues to which Kaepernick tried to bring attention have burst to the forefront of the national conversation and his efforts have gained greater appreciation.

In turn, Trump has taken to reiterating his opposition to pregame protests staged by athletes. He said recently, “We will never kneel to our national anthem or our great American flag,” adding, “I thought we won that battle with the NFL.”

The tweets from Stewart and McCleney were among a torrent of outrage and anguish poured forth by members — now former members — of Scrap Yard, as well as by USSSA Pride and others in the softball community over the past three days. Of the 11 Scrap Yard players who are also on the 2021 Olympic team, at least 10 have offered public criticism of the team’s tweet to Trump.

Kiki Stokes, Scrap Yard’s other black player, posted a lengthy note Tuesday in which she said, “Never in my entire playing career or even life have I been so hurt. … I feel betrayed, embarrassed, disgusted, angry.”

Having posted images on Monday of the phrase, “This isn’t us,” many players returned to social media Wednesday to share a message that began, “This is us: Awareness. Empowerment. Unity.” The message also declared, “We are here to spark a necessary change in the softball community, gaining and sharing knowledge about racial injustice in our world.”

Olympic veteran Cat Osterman wrote in her post that Scrap Yard players quit the team both because the tweet “was insensitive and tone deaf” and they felt “used as political pawns for someone else’s agenda.”

“We had a great opportunity, as the sport of softball, to say, ‘Look, we’re figuring out how it make it work, and play softball and give people sports right now,’ and unfortunately, that was hijacked and taken away from us,” Osterman, a 37-year-old who helped the U.S. win gold in 2004 and silver in 2008 before the sport was dropped until the upcoming Summer Games, said on Tuesday. “The focus has become anything but what we were actually trying to do on the field.”

According to players, the tweet was posted by Connie May, general manager of the Houston-based Scrap Yard Dawgs since the team’s inception in 2015. The New York Times reported that, in a contentious postgame meeting Monday with her team, May asserted that “all lives matter.” That phrase has frequently been used to diminish, if not take issue with, the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, and May’s reported repetition of it did not go over well in the locker room.

“You failed to understand my perspective by saying all lives matter,” Stokes wrote Tuesday. “You failed to feel my pain when you said in front of everyone that you of all people were in an uncomfortable situation at the moment, you failed when you tried to justify what was said.”

Some have noted that a Scrap Yard statement from June 2, in which the company pledged to “stand with” the black community, included this passage: “We believe black lives matter, as do all lives.” The statement also mentioned that Floyd’s family “pleads for peace, understanding, and an end to the chaos, violence and destruction.”

May has not offered public comment since Monday. Scrap Yard did not immediately reply Wednesday to a request for comment.

USSSA Pride also did not reply to a request for comment, but it did release a statement in which it said that its games “have been postponed until further notice.”

“Our athletes came to this decision unanimously and after much consideration with players from the Scrap Yard Dawgs team,” USSSA Pride said. “For now, we are putting our season on hold to reflect and determine how best to move forward as a collective. … We remain committed to ensuring everyone, regardless of their color or creed, feels welcomed by us and the sport as a whole.”

The team is run by the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), which was formerly known as the United States Slow-pitch Softball Association but rebranded after it began overseeing events in other sports, including fast-pitch softball. The USSSA is headquartered at the Space Coast Stadium complex in Viera, Fla., where the series with Scrap Yard began but was thrown into turmoil before Wednesday’s scheduled Game 2.

“I cannot see anything happening before Saturday,” former Scrap Yard player Ally Carda, another member of Team USA, said Wednesday to Florida Today, “and that would be a stretch, kind of figuring out the logistical parts of all this with USSSA.”

Carda added that she and her teammates, having disassociated themselves from Scrap Yard, were “still in the process of figuring out just sort of what we’re going to do and wear.” Referring to the Dawgs uniforms worn Monday, she said, “Obviously, we’re not wearing them again.”

The two teams used to be in the National Pro Fastpitch league but have gone independent in recent years. In addition to the current series, they are scheduled to play each other again at Space Coast Stadium in July, and three series have been scheduled next month at the Scrap Yard complex in Conroe, Tex.

The likelihood of those games being played with Scrap Yard as host now appear extremely dim. On Wednesday, a group of fast-pitch clubs announced they were pulling out of an early-July event at the Scrap Yard facility, which features 10 fields.

“The decision was made to acknowledge the hurt many players and coaches felt by recent comments made by the leadership of the Scrap Yard Dawgs program,” a tournament provider, Triple Crown Sports, said in a statement on behalf of the clubs. It added, “We believe sensitivity and tone are important ingredients of respect. Through sports we can help unify the many voices that deserve support in their right to protest and call for needed change as millions of people seek a new path for justice.”

With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, which also caused the cancellation of this year’s Women’s College World Series, the games between Scrap Yard and USSSA Pride were highly anticipated.

The contests would also provide the players much-needed financial support for their athletic careers, but Carda said, “At this point, it’s not about softball, it’s not about the game or any of that.”

“It’s definitely bigger,” she told ESPN. “Do we play one game and try and make an impact that way? Do we do a series? … With whatever we decide to do, what are the steps where we can be super intentional with it and make a really big impact with what we’re trying to say about what happened?”

However the Olympians and their club teammates proceed, it almost certainly won’t be with any further involvement from Scrap Yard. Stewart declared (via ESPN) she “will never play” for that organization again, given that the “trust is entirely broken.”

“Lots of people think it’s about the flag, but it’s not about the flag whatsoever. It’s the fact that she projected her views and her political views on us,” Stewart said of May. “She took our voice away when no one knew about it.”

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