By Michael Lewis
In a stunning and unprecedented move showing solidarity, five Major League Soccer games were postponed on Wednesday, as players on 10 teams made a stand against racism, racial injustice and bigotry.
The announcement came in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis. Blake has been hospitalized and paralyzed from the waist down.
The five games were:
* Inter Miami CF vs. Atlanta United
* FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids
* Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Football Club
* San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers
* LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders
Those games will be rescheduled, the league said.
The only game played was the Orlando City SC vs. Nashville FC game, which kicked off as scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Orlando recorded a 3-1 victory.
The decisions came in the wake of the NBA deciding to postpone three playoffs games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court in response to the Blake shooting and the two killings during the ensuing protests.
The league supported the players.
In a statement, MLS said: “The entire Major League Soccer family is deeply saddened and horrified by the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake and events in Kenosha. We continue to stand with the Black community throughout our country — including our players and employees — and share in their pain, anger and frustration.
“MLS unequivocally condemns racism and has always stood for equality, but we need to do more to take tangible steps to impact change. We will continue to work with our players, our clubs and the broader soccer community to harness our collective power to fight for equality and social justice.”
Support for the decision came from the players, clubs and associations.
Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan, a former Red Bulls captain: “Soccer is my life, but if boycotting the game tonight brings about an ounce of the much needed change we need right now, it will be worth it. Enough is enough.”
Soccer is my life, but if boycotting the game tonight brings about an ounce of the much needed change we need right now, it will be worth it. Enough is enough. My thoughts: pic.twitter.com/JMtuVU8lWq
— Sacha Kljestan (@SachaKljestan) August 27, 2020
* Atlanta midfielder Jeff Larentowicz: “We want to let all of the fans know that we made a collective decision between both lockers rooms to not play tonight to stand-up and fight for social change.”
* Seattle forward Jordan Morris: “For us, this fight for equality is so much bigger than sports. You see what has happened with Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor, there hasn’t been justice. There’s been no arrests. It seems like nothing has changed. So as an organization, as a club, as players, we came together to show our support and solidarity with the Black community and to really try to be a driving force for change. This has been going on for way too long and obviously everyone knows and understands that it needs to change, so we’re trying to do our part to help drive that change forward.”
* Seattle defender Kelin Leerdam: “We thought about it really hard, but, in the end, we’re professional athletes but we’re also human beings. Sometimes as a professional athlete you live in some kind of a bubble, but we wanted to show everybody that, listen, we see what happens around us and those are things that can affect us too. As a group, we decided that we’re part of the world and we’ll let everybody see that the things that happen around us, we aren’t blind to it. That’s why we took a stand to not play today. I think you’ve seen it all over – other leagues and teams are also doing it. These are tough times, where we have to take a stand.”
We made a decision together as players and staffs to not play our game tonight because there’s more happening in our country to distract our minds to soccer. This is the first time I can agree to the saying “it’s just a game” #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/bdQs2ZXcKb
— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) August 27, 2020
Proud of sports tonight and all of my guys in MLS. ✊🏿
— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) August 27, 2020
* FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez: “We stand by the players and the staff in this moment to demonstrate togetherness and to bring attention for things to be better. I think it’s an opportunity to learn, to be educated and to give each other love.”
— Black Players For Change (@BPCMLS) August 27, 2020
The time for change is now. pic.twitter.com/ISMLsEjaE9
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) August 27, 2020
Several teams made statements supporting the players.
Here is a sampling:
“We support our players. We stand with them, and share their frustration with what we have witnessed. We are committed to supporting our beliefs. We are all Sounders. Together we fight racism. We are resolved and committed as an organization to use our platform in furtherance of change – real systemic change – to make our community a more just place to live for everyone.
“We stand in solidarity with the Black community, with our players, our city and our fans in the fight against injustice. We must use our voices to be the change.”
“FC Dallas loves and supports our players. We join them in raising awareness for racial injustice against the Black community.”
“The Portland Timbers stand in support of our players and their decision not to play tonight. Racial injustice and police brutality towards Black people in our country must end now.”
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) August 27, 2020
We stand in solidarity with the players from both teams in the ongoing fight for racial and social justice. pic.twitter.com/xQ1ouXdAYJ
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) August 27, 2020