The Mission Continues
As we head into another Black History Month filled with celebration and reflection of great Black leaders and moments in history, I think it’s important to look back at all we’ve been able to create and achieve within the USL. The formation of the Black Players Alliance was a historic achievement on so many levels. The organic formation and growth of the group showed us just how many people were interested and committed to our mission of driving diversity in the sport of soccer. The sheer number of players within our league who joined our group and showed support for what we were doing was, and still is, incredible. All of these athletes have dedicated their time to a greater cause while also competing every day on the soccer field at the professional level. Our formation was exciting but our impact is just beginning.
“I have advocated and I still advocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the United States.” - Assata Shakur
Since its inception in the fall of 2020, the organization has received a positive reception within the sports community. We’ve been able to connect with other organizations like the Black Players for Change in MLS and the Black Women’s Player Collective of the NWSL. Their support and guidance have been huge as we each navigate different leagues and different environments but ultimately push for the same goal. Improving diversity at every league and every level of the sport is the mission. Being able to work with organizations outside our sport has also been majorly impactful. Connecting with the Players Coalition, formed by former NFL players Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins, opened up many doors for us as an organization and provided a number of opportunities for individual members to affect change in their local communities. Working with so many organizations within the sports community helped us to realize how much work there is to be done but how many amazing people are out there committing their lives to see it through.
Not only were we able to make connections within the sports world but we also found some great organizations outside of sports that were doing some amazing work. One of our first partnerships was with the Young Investors Society; an organization committed to improving financial literacy for youth around the world. We felt like this partnership was vital for us because we identified their cause as one of the vital components to breaking the cycle of poverty within minority communities. We knew that if we could use our platforms as professional athletes to inspire the next generation to think and learn about money differently then we could start to change the pattern of poverty within communities that need it the most. Our group realized our mission is about more than just soccer. As black athletes, we wanted to be role models for those that look like us. That meant more than just excelling on the soccer field.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” - James Baldwin
Our work in partnership with the USL league office was one of the most encouraging parts of the past year. The receptiveness of league executives was motivating to us as a group. Our ability to create the “United Against Racism” campaign showed the willingness of the league to listen and learn. We were able to raise a significant amount of money through the creation of our
United Against Racism jerseys. These were all very positive steps for us as an organization and as a league. The question still remains, what is next? As we analyze the effectiveness of the campaign, it’s hard to look past the lack of devotion to the comprehensive plan by everyone involved. We all have to do better moving forward.
As we move through 2022, we have committed our organization to do more. Not just more work with non-profit organizations to raise money. Not just more social justice campaigns to raise awareness for the issues and our cause. But more tangible action that will result in more opportunities for minorities within the sport of soccer. We want to push ourselves, and the people around us, to truly commit to this work. Our goal isn’t just to design more cool apparel to sell this year, our goal is to see more representation in leadership positions throughout the league. In order to do that, we have to create a framework that is built around diversity. We have to commit, and hold ourselves accountable, to doing more. Individuals outside our organization have to do the same. Clubs have to do the same. The league has to do the same. We aren’t going to change the status quo by slapping a band-aid on the issues. We want to confront them head-on so that we can move in a direction that is positive and inclusive for everyone. What we’ve done in the past was great; it’s now time to take it to another level.