KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Nearly 200 players took the field for an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence to protest racial injustice before Major League Soccer’s return to action Wednesday night.
Players wore black T-shirts, black gloves and black facemasks emblazoned with Black Lives Matter. The shirts had varying slogans that included Black And Proud, Silence Is Violence and Black All The Time.
The players walked toward midfield, raised their right arms one at a time and held the pose so long that some could be seen stretching fatigued muscles afterward.
It was a poignant moment that put two of the nation’s most prominent changes over the last four months — masks and movements — at the forefront of the sport’s return.
The group was formerly called the Black Players Coalition of MLS but changed its name this week to Black Players for Change. Originally announced on Juneteenth, the group started in the wake of George Floyd’s death with the hope of combatting systemic racism both in soccer and the players’ communities. The league and the players’ union endorsed the organization.
Several other players from Orlando City and Inter Miami took a knee near midfield during the demonstration.
The two in-state teams delivered their own moment of silence by taking a knee along with the referee and the line judges just before the opening kick.
The national anthem was not played before or after the demonstration. MLS previously said it would not be played because no fans were in attendance.
Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. Prosecutors said that a police officer had his knee on the neck of Floyd for 7 minutes, 46 seconds — not the 8:46 that has become a symbol of police brutality.
MLS players had weeks to decide what to do prior to the MLS is Back tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.
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Author: The Associated Press