The MLS is Back Tournament arrives at, what feels like, a significant moment in American history.
As matches kick off, the country is in the midst of a global pandemic and protests denouncing systemic racism and oppression.
This hasn’t been forgotten inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Just before the tournament’s opening match, more than 100 Black players and coaches – members of Black Players for Change (BPC) – led a silent demonstration lasting eight minutes and 46 seconds – a tribute to George Floyd.
For each team's first match during the MLS is Back Tournament, players will have an MLS Unites patch below their number on the back of their jersey. The patch is the chance for players to honor someone, whether it’s a person fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, a victim of police brutality or another meaningful individual.
When FC Cincinnati play Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night in the #HellisReal Derby, you’ll see the names and slogans players wanted on their patch. Here is the reasoning behind each player’s decision.
Saad Abdul-Salaam, Fatai Alashe and Joseph-Claude Gyau will wear Breonna Taylor’s name on their patch.
Tommy McCabe will wear George Floyd’s name, while Samuel DuBose will be on Jimmy McLaughlin’s patch.
Black Lives Matter will be written on the patch of eight FCC players: Allan Cruz, Siem de Jong, Mathieu Deplagne, Yuya Kubo, Haris Medunjanin, Adrien Regattin, Brandon Vazquez and Kendall Waston.
“Be the solution, not the problem,” Waston said when he explained his decision.
Frankie Amaya: Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valley.
Zico Bailey: Dr. Bailey. “He’s my dad and a doctor working during Covid.”
Greg Garza: Nurses.
Andrew Gutman: Mom. “During quarantine, she stepped up and made sure my grandparents had everything they needed and didn’t lose touch with friends and family.
Jürgen Locadia: Salomé. “Grandma.”
Kekuta Manneh: LaRhonda Niccum. “I think my mom has been a rock for the family for years now, and even more so during quarantine. She’s been getting groceries and running errands for my grandparents.”
Tom Pettersson: Johanna Almgren: “Thanks to the corona and for us being here, she has to take care of our kids all alone. Now that is a hero.”
Spencer Richey: Summer Taylor.
Caleb Stanko: Betsy Rodgers.
Maikel van der Werff: Say no to Racism.
Nick Hagglund: West End Pride.
Bobby Edwards and Przemysław Tytoń will wear Nicholas Cordrey’s name. Like Tytoń and Edwards, Cordrey was a goalkeeper at Taylor High School and passed away on June 3 after suffering a brain aneurysm.
“I never got the opportunity to meet Nicholas personally, but I have heard a lot of amazing things about him,” Edwards said for his patch description. “Similar to myself, Nicholas came from a family of goalkeepers and his coaches always described him as both a hard worker and a great teammate. He supported us and represented the fighting spirit that FC Cincinnati is. Built upon. We’ll proudly play in remembrance of him and he’ll always be a part of the FC Cincinnati organization.”