BPC, owners meet as MLS games return
Following Wednesday’s player-led walkout that resulted in the postponement of five matches, Black Players for Change (BPC) and MLS announced that this weekend’s slate of games will be played as scheduled.
Players from around the league declined to play in protest of racial injustice, and in particular the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two protesters were murdered in the city two days later. That development came as players in both the NBA and WNBA declined to play in support of Black Lives Matter as well as to protest what took place in Kenosha.
While the players will return to the field, there will be continued dialogue between the BPC and MLS owners.
“Following a period of reflection and conversation with the Black Players for Change, the league’s players, and the MLS Players Association (MLSPA), matches will resume beginning tonight with the Montreal Impact hosting Toronto FC,” MLS said in a statement. “The Black Players for Change are scheduled to meet with MLS owners, as the players and the league continue working together to create long-term change both inside and outside of MLS.”
Following Friday’s match there will be nine more matches throughout the weekend.
D.C. United goalkeeper and BPC executive board member Earl Edwards, Jr. said that what took place Wednesday was spontaneous and was organized quickly.
“I think it was a very raw and real thing,” Edwards said, “There wasn’t a direct plan in place, and it was an in-the-moment decision that very much for Black people in this country, Black athletes, that playing our sport was not at the forefront of our mind. On that day it didn’t make sense given the shooting of Jacob Blake and the turmoil that the country is in and how Black people are being treated.”
Herculez Gomez reacts to Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen speaking against player protests.
As such, the goals that the BPC hopes to achieve from Wednesday’s walkout are in various stages of development. There was a desire to raise awareness of racial inequality, which Edwards felt had ebbed in the months since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, even as the MLS is Back tournament witnessed plenty of instances of players making gestures and statements.
“I think Jacob Blake, his case specifically, has got people reengaged,” said Edwards. “So obviously, these are tragic things that Black people don’t want to be suffering in this country and don’t want to have to be fearful in this country. And when such a case and something so tragic goes viral, it reminds everybody of our reality in this country and brings that awareness back in. And hopefully people will stay on board and continue to fight for us.”
Other goals are still taking shape, and will be discussed in upcoming meetings with MLS owners. That prospect was enough for players to return to the field.
“That was that wasn’t an easy decision,” said Edwards about ending the boycott. “We had a lot of meetings yesterday and we were debating whether we wanted to continue to boycott games or if it made more sense to return to play. And I think we created enough noise through our boycott on Wednesday’s games to get back in contact with our commissioner, set up a meeting with ownership. And as he expressed to us, the goal of that meeting will be to gain concrete planning in collaboration with the BPC, and MLS and ownership in terms of how we’re going to fight systemic racism here moving forward. Because up until this point, we haven’t felt that support from most of our owners and in the league specifically. So, I hope that meeting that we will be having will lead to some real change.”
Edwards said he’s like to see MLS follow the NBA’s lead and use stadiums as polling places in the upcoming election.
“I think [voting access] will be 100% one of the things that is brought up in terms of resources that professional sports teams have,” said Edwards. “Providing the space for voting is something that’s seems like a very obvious thing that we can contribute to, so that that is something that will be brought up in that meeting. I’m glad this will go public before the meeting, and owners can see that and hopefully come with a plan of how they plan on doing so.”