MLS announces series of initiatives aiming to combat racism and promote diversity

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Black Players for Change, MLS, Black Lives Matter 2020Getty

Major League Soccer has worked with the recently-formed Black Players for Change organization to unveil a series of social justice initiatives designed to increase representation across the sport.

The Black Players for Change organization announced its formation on Juneteenth, which commemorates the day on which Union forces in Texas delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to the region, freeing the last group of slaves in the United States.

It was founded in response to worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd, which prompted an ongoing push for social justice. 

The organization has more than 170 MLS players involved and aims to lobby for bias training, community initiatives, cultural education courses and a more prominent role in league leadership.

Players united to make a statement ahead of the league's return for the MLS is Back tournament in July , with the focus remaining on the issues of racism and police brutality in the months since.

On Monday, MLS announced, after several months of discussions with key stakeholders across the league, including a recent meeting between the MLS Board and the BPC, a series of new initiatives are set to be rolled out to help aid the fight for social justice.

“Major League Soccer is committed to utilizing our wide-ranging platforms to create meaningful programs to address racism and social injustice in society and in the sport of soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. 

“Importantly, alongside key stakeholders, including MLS owners, Black Players For Change, former players, Black members of our technical staff and other employees, we have created a series of initiatives to close the representation gap across soccer in the U.S. and Canada.”

The league, which has contributed $1 million to Black Players For Change to aid in the growth of the organization in the coming years, has announced the foundation of a new Diversity Committee, which will include MLS owners, BPC leadership, club executives, head coaches, academy coaches, former MLS players and members of Pitch Black, a resource group of Black employees from MLS’ league office. That committee will support all of the league's initiatives while helping drive the strategy for outreach.

MLS also announced that the league will increase their efforts to support underserved communities, with the recent MLS Unites to Vote initiative serving as a starting point.

The league will provide access, exposure, and clearly-defined career paths for those that make up under-represented groups, with a focus on helping black candidates into positions of leadership with both clubs and in the league office and collaborating with MLS NEXT to increase representation among players, coaches and referees at the youth level.

Additionally, the league has formed partnerships with 100 Black Men of America and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, having made financial contributions to both organizations while promising to collaborate on developing long-term programs with both.