Black Players for Change led 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silent protest.
As the MLS is Back tournament kicked off on Wednesday in Florida, Black Players for Change initiated a powerful and moving protest demonstration prior to the start of the first game between Orlando City and Inter Miami.
Black Players for Change began as the Black Players Coalition of MLS, a group formed this year on Juneteenth to combat systemic racism and racial injustice. This player led group of over 170 members is fully supported by the MLS and has more recently joined forces with the NFL’s Players Coalition, further broadening their ability to bring about change.
As pregame began on Wednesday, members of Black Players for Change took the field wearing black shirts reading Silence is Violence, Black and Proud, and Black All The Time, as well as Black Lives Matter face masks and black gloves.
They surrounded the perimeter of the field while the Orlando City and Inter Miami players gathered at the center circle and took a knee. In a ripple effect, the right fist of every member of Black Players for Change shot up into the air one by one in a moment that gave me chills in the best way possible.
There they remained for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that the Minneapolis police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, eventually killing him.
Though the players stood in silence, their collective voice and the messages they stood for were heard loud and clear.
As the New England Revolution and Montreal Impact faced off the following day, Montreal’s manager and soccer legend Thierry Henry knelt for the first 8 minutes and 46 seconds of the match in his own powerful demonstration of solidarity and belief in the cause.
Black Players for Change is only just beginning their long fight to make their voices heard and their presence felt, but Wednesday’s protest was a powerful beginning as they continue to amplify black voices in the league and beyond.