Following a summer of historic protests for racial justice that led to a number of high profile changes in MLS games this season, the league announced a large set of initiatives to combat racism.
The program, detailed by MLS on Monday, specifically seeks to address systemic racism and increase Black representation in soccer. One of the major components of the initiative is a Diversity Committee composed of MLS Board of Governors, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and representatives of the Black Players For Change, which will develop a new strategy toward diversity in the league.
The league has been criticized for its lack of diversity outside of its player pool, given that there have only been six Black head coaches in its 25-year history and that none of the top 13 MLS executives are Black.
To improve that, among other things, MLS says it will use league resources to provide more clearly defined career paths from underrepresented groups and to assist marginalized communities while closing the representation gap in soccer. It will also further rely on the league’s recently-established Supplier Diversity Program to provide meaningful opportunities and economic inclusion to minority-owned businesses.
The league will also donate $1 million to aid in the growth of Black Players for Change, an organization set up by more than 170 Black MLS players, coaches, and staff in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May, in addition to forming a partnership with 100 Black Men of America and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
The commitment to combating racism comes on the heels of a summer where the Black Lives Matter social justice movement was front and center in MLS games. In addition to the creation of Black Players for Change, the MLS is Back tournament featured powerful pre-game tributes to Floyd, promotion for Black Lives Matter with league-created shirts, large advertising space for the message “MLSisBlack” during matches in Orlando, and even a pause in play in August following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
MLS’ embrace of Black Lives Matter and its anti-racism agenda puts it among the most proactive sports entities on the issue to date. In a media address in June, commissioner Don Garber signaled the league’s intent to go further than just superficial messaging when it came to combating racism.
“I have to say that it’s not enough to produce ads, it’s not enough just to have programs that talk about these issues. We, as a league, and I think I can also speak as a leader in the sport, and I can speak on behalf of our players and our clubs, that we need to go further. And we’re committed to doing that,” he said.
By bringing player organizations to the table, providing significant financial backing for its initiatives, and forming strategic partnerships with well established groups, MLS is certainly on its way to honoring that commitment.
To view details of the league’s full program, click here.
Categories: Major League Soccer