On Dec. 7, 2020, Major League Soccer (MLS) named Black Players for Change as the 2020 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year. MLS WORKS focuses on “advancing the attention on human rights inequalities from protest to programs, partnerships and policies that address systemic racism.” This organization is the league’s “social responsibility platform.”
On Jul. 8, 2020, during the “MLS is Back Tournament”, the players from the Orlando City and Inter Miami teams took a knee around the center circle of the soccer pitch. They were joined by a group of 170 Black players, coaches, and staff from around the league. They wore black t-shirts covered with messages including Silence is Violence, Black Lives Matter and Black and Proud. They stood silently in a giant rectangle with black-gloved fists held high for eight minutes and 46 seconds which was the same amount of time a Minneapolis police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck when he died. The show of unity was raw, emotional and powerful.
“It’s been very important for us this year to be united and speak as one voice,” said Toronto FC’s fullback Justin Morrow, the executive director of Black Players for Change. “That’s why I’m so thrilled and we are so thrilled that we’re winning Humanitarian of the Year as a group.”
“Because everything that we’ve done as an organization has been built on the backs, the hard work of all of our group … We’ve had some successes. We’re still fighting some battles. We will continue to fight those battles. We’re making sure that we will not go away and this organization will be for future generations.”