KISSIMMEE, Fla. – In an emotional and powerful statement, more than 100 Black players in Major League Soccer, members of the Black Players for Change took the field at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in a joint protest prior to the kickoff of the inaugural game of the MLS is Back Tournament Wednesday.
Players lined up across the main field before Orlando City SC defeated Inter Miami CF, 2-1. Their demonstration took eight minutes and 46 seconds, symbolizing the amount of time police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, who was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25.
Players, wearing shirts with sayings such as “Black and Proud” and “Silence is Violence,” outlined the field while Miami and Orlando players kneeled on the outline of the center circle.
One by one, every player raised his fist during a a moment of silence, recalling the historic protest by U.S. Olympic medal winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
MLS became the first men’s pro sports league to return to play in the United States after the National Women’s Soccer League came back to play in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup on June 27.
NWSL players also have been participating in similar protests during the national anthem, with many players kneeling in a callback to Colin Kaepernick’s protests in 2016.
Black Players for Change was founded in June in the aftermath of those protests, with more than 170 MLS players involved with the organization.