Story at a glance

  • The Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer team, has been vocal in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • During the upcoming season, players will honor victims of police brutality with their names on their jerseys.

As the Philadelphia Union faced off against the New York City FC during the Major League Soccer (MLS) is Back Tournament in Orlando, Fla., the names on the back of players’ jerseys weren’t their own; instead, each player donned the surname of a victim of police violence.

 

Union Goalkeeper Andre Blake wore the name Floyd, in memory of George Floyd, the Black man whose death under the knee of a white police officer inspired protests across the country. Other names worn during the game included those of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice. 


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"At the start, certainly things going on in our country far bigger than soccer," Union manager Jim Curtin told ESPN. "I have to say I'm very proud of my players throughout the past four months for the leadership they've shown, the leadership role they've taken in the BLM movement, educating the other players on our team.”

In recent games, members of the team have worn T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter,” worn face masks that read “MLS is Black” and played in stadiums with the messages “Black all the time,” “Silence is violence” and “Black & proud” on LED sign boards surrounding the field.


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MLS became the first men’s sport to return to play amid the ongoing global pandemic and protests around racial equality and police violence. Two teams have already withdrawn from the tournament due to multiple players becoming infected with the coronavirus. But even as the league reevaluates its decision to resume the season, more than 77 players have announced a formal partnership between the Players Coalition and Black Players for Change. 

“We’re excited to formalize and announce our partnership with Players Coalition,” said Quincy Amarikwa, a co-founder of the newly launched effort of MLS players, in a statement. “Through this partnership, we see an opportunity to create a path that brings all players across all sports leagues together in our fight to overcome and move past the racial and discriminatory practices within our world."

Non-white players make up about 62 percent of the league, according to ESPN in 2019, 37.5 percent of coaches, 46.4 percent of assistant coaches, and 40.9 percent of the MLS league office. Still, only 27.7 percent of MLS professional administrators and 17.2 percent of MLS senior administrators are non-white. 

Union defender Ray Gaddis, who wore the last name of Breonna Taylor, told ESPN, "Actions are louder than words. Again it's to further the conversation and to continue to use our platform to be a voice for the voiceless. It was a collective group effort."


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Published on Jul 09, 2020