Major League Soccer has heard the nationwide calls for an end to systemic racism and social injustice as much as any sports organization this side of the NBA. On Monday, MLS outlined its plans to add action to its support of the biggest civil rights movement in 60 years.
The league’s new effort consists of specific steps it is taking “to combat racism, advocate for social justice and increase representation in the sport,” MLS said in a news release announcing the program, which comes after months of discussions between MLS officials and members of its Black Players for Change coalition.
The BPC, which was formed amid the global outrage caused by the killing of George Floyd in May, will receive $1 million from MLS owners “to aid in the growth of the organization.”
Major League Soccer players take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before a match at the MLS is Back Tournament in July. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
It is clear that BPC was instrumental in designing the league’s initiative; it includes programs aimed at the grassroots level, an area that is often overlooked by leagues or governing bodies focused more on shaping public perception than on bringing about meaningful and lasting change within marginalized communities.
MLS “will use league resources to address issues of public concern,” it said, such as expanding its program that helps underserved citizens vote; the league announced in September that several of its stadiums would be used as polling places for next month’s general election.
On the sport-specific front, it will target underrepresented groups from the youth level to the pros, both on and off the field.
“This initiative will include developing pathways of entrance and advancement for emerging and current talent, in addition to creating policies and an educational ecosystem to increase Black representation in executive and sporting positions at the league office, the member clubs and other North American soccer organizations,” the league said.
MLS has also created a diversity committee that will include owners, BPC leaders, executives, coaches, former players and a group of Black employees based in its New York headquarters.
“Major League Soccer is committed to utilizing our wide-ranging platforms to create meaningful programs to address racism and social injustice in society and in the sport of soccer,” Commissioner Don Garber said. “We have created a series of initiatives to close the representation gap across soccer in the U.S. and Canada.”
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