Prior to the beginning of the MLS Is Back tournament, a return of the 2020 season that the coronavirus pandemic interrupted, players from around the league stood on the field at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando -- where the tournament is taking place - and performed a silent demonstration in an effort to highlight a desire for equality and social change before the Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF match. Players for Orlando and Miami closer to midfield chose to kneel, while others raised their fists in the air for a silent demonstration that lasted for more than five minutes.
The demonstration was the brainchild of an organization within the league called Black Players for Change. In addition to the raised fists and bent knees, players wore face masks that read "Black Lives Matter" and worse shirts that read "Silence is Violence."
"Today, the Black Players for Change (BPC) - an organization of more than 170 Black MLS players - protest in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the struggle for racial equality and human rights," a statement from the organization read.
The organization pushed for certain initiatives to take place during the MLS Is Back Tournament that recognize the fight for racial justice not just within the league, but throughout the country. Captain's armbands will show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Team jerseys will have MLS Unites patches which will have spaces for players to write the name of someone they wish to honor, or an inspirational message.
The formation of the BPC was announced on Juneteenth in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Within the league, the organization looks to increase diversity with hiring coaches and executives, create cultural and educational initiatives and collaborate with the league on implicit bias training. Beyond the MLS, the BPC wants to bring attention systemic racism and human rights inequalities.
"BPC 's areas of focus to positively impact Black communities are social justice reforms in health equality, economic opportunity, and ending structural discrimination," a statement from the organization reads.