Major League Soccer made a powerful statement without words Wednesday as the league's MLS is Back Tournament was set to begin with a game between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami FC.
Prior to the opening kick at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside Orlando, Fla., more than a 100 Black MLS players stood on the pitch in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, with raised fists, while the starters from both teams knelt in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The length of time coincided with how long a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the incident.
The protest was conducted by members of the league's Black Players for Change, according to the official MLS website. The group consists of over 170 Black MLS players and was formed to help create change inside and outside the league.
Players wore shirts drawing attention to social and racial injustice concerns. Players also sported face masks with the words "BLACK LIVES MATTER" and "MLS is BLACK."
It was a powerful moment as the first major men's sports league in North American returned to action following a 122-day interruption due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Women's Soccer League returned to action June 27 with the start of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup at two locations in Utah.
The "MLS is Back Tournament" features all but one of the league's 26 teams taking part in a World Cup-style competition. Following the event, the league plans to continue with its regular season.
--Field Level Media