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Black Lives Matter in Bundesliga, Bayern keeps winning

BERLIN – Germany’s soccer league was marked by gestures against racism and support for the Black Lives Matter movement on Saturday as Bayern Munich took another step toward a record-extending eighth straight Bundesliga title.

All of Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin’s 22 outfield players took a knee in the center-circle together before the top tier's late game with no fans present. Coaches and other team members from both sides did likewise beside the field, bringing to mind former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest before games against police brutality and racial inequality.

Dortmund’s players had warmed up wearing T-shirts with slogans such as “United together,” and “No justice, no peace.”

Bayern and Bayer Leverkusen’s players wore black armbands against racism in their game earlier Saturday, which Bayern won 4-2 after rallying from a goal down. Bayern's players had ”Black Lives Matter” printed on their armbands, partly covering sponsor Qatar Airways’ logo on the left arm.

The teams’ gestures were made as tens of thousands of people across Germany attended anti-racism demonstrations in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died after a white police officer pressed his knee against his neck, ignoring his “I can’t breathe” cries even after Floyd eventually grew still.

Fortuna Düsseldorf’s American midfielder Alfredo Morales took a knee before coming on in his team's 2-2 draw with 10-man Hoffenheim, and Cameroon midfielder Pierre Kunde did likewise after scoring for Mainz in a 2-0 derby win at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Emre Can’s 57th-minute strike was enough for Dortmund to win 1-0 and stay seven points behind Bayern with four games remaining. Bayern, which has won its last nine games, looks unlikely to squander its lead.

Robert Lewandowski scored Bayern’s fourth to claim his 30th Bundesliga goal of the season, set up by Thomas Müller, who now has 20 assists. However, both players were booked in the first half and will miss the next game against Borussia Mönchengladbach due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Bayern’s players had warmed up wearing anti-racism T-shirts in Leverkusen, where the home team had to do without young star Kai Havertz due to muscular problems.

It also had to do without fans, as all Bundesliga games are being played without supporters amid strict hygiene measures against coronavirus.

Leverkusen striker Lucas Alario opened the scoring in the ninth minute, staying calm to beat Manuel Neuer at the near post with the outside of his boot. The linesman lifted his flag for offside, but the goal was given after a VAR check.

The home side played well until Leon Goretzka set up Kingsley Coman to equalize in the 27th, then scored himself on a counterattack in the 42nd.

There was still time before the break for Serge Gnabry to grab Bayern’s third, lifting the ball over ’keeper Lukas Hradecky.

Though his side had played well for the first half-hour, Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz reacted with three changes at the break.

But another defensive mistake preceded Lewandowski’s goal in the 66th, a powerful header from Müller’s perfectly-placed cross.

The 17-year-old Florian Wirtz restored some pride for Leverkusen with a brilliant finish past Neuer in the 89th. He became the youngest goal-scorer in the Bundesliga.

Last-place Paderborn claimed a 1-1 draw at 10-man Leipzig.

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP