On Friday, Sounders FC players, coaches and staff wore Black Lives Matter t-shirts while traveling from Seattle to Orlando, where the squad is set to compete in the MLS is Back Tournament. The player-driven initiative formed from a team meeting held in the days leading up to their departure.
SoundersFC.com chatted with a handful of players of varying color, ethnicity and age to discuss the t-shirt message, Black Lives Matter and the importance of public-facing activism.
On wearing the t-shirts on the travel day...
"We had an internal discussion. As athletes and organizations, on one hand people are saying, ‘don’t just jump on the bandwagon’ and the other hand people are saying, ‘say something, do something, use your platform.’
We knew that the Sounders [front office] were doing things in the background for a long-term effect, which is very, very important, but for us as players, what is important to us? What do we stand for?"
“We decided this as a locker room. It was a group decision. We were all on the same page. Everybody’s eyes are open and see what is going around, especially in the U.S., but also around the world. It is a very good initiative from our guys in the locker room to support one another. We are a very diverse team.”
“It’s great to show solidarity as a group and stand up for a cause we all believe in. We all believe it’s important. It reflects the thoughts as a group, as individuals, as an organization, and as a country, largely. Being able to be on any stage, whether it’s wearing a shirt together or something larger than that, each step along the way is a step closer to a solution.”
“I think it is very important for us, but especially me as a Black male. We are going through a difficult time right now, but it’s good to see the team supporting us, supporting the community, and supporting Black Lives Matter. We as a club know where we stand, and we as a people should know where we stand, but it’s important to come together and do this. It makes me very comfortable to be in this club.”
On what BLM means to them and how to move forward...
"[BLM] is an essential part to the American dream. Freedom and equality for everybody. I have an issue with people who respond 'every life matters.' Yes, of course it does. That’s the issue why it’s not right, what is going on currently. We’re sitting here saying, ‘every life matters’ but the Black community has been neglected and their life has not mattered, and all minorities for that matter. So it’s important we focus on that so that the American Dream can become a reality. I want us as Americans to act on that."
"Register to vote. We are lucky to live in a democracy where every vote matters… The fact of that matter is, you can vote. That is what’s most important. Make sure to register to vote and let your voice to be heard."
"Everyone has their own experience and I can only tell from my experience. I’ve only been here for three years, but I’ve also gone through stuff in the Netherlands. For me, it’s important to let my experience be heard. I’ve shared my experience with my teammates and it’s been good to talk about it in the locker room. In the end, it means everyone has had same experience in a different way."
"I feel like it’s really important to know what is going on in society. Even at a young age, it’s important because we are the future generations. We are a generation that can create change. It’s important to recognize the problems in the world, but also try to fix them, as well."
“I think the biggest thing anyone can do is educate ourselves. I’ve definitely looked into it. I’ve spoken to Steve Zakuani on the side about it, I think we can all be educated and fight for what we believe is right.
“It is taking a look at yourself, and that’s something that everyone should do. What can you do better? As a white male growing up in an affluent community, I will never understand the fear and suppression that Black people feel on a daily basis. For me, and for a lot of other white people, it’s listening, learning and taking the time to fully understand and empathize everything that Black people have been put through for so long. That’s such an important first step."
“We’re not fighting for a political stance; we’re fighting for racial equality. That’s a natural-born right. We’re not sending a political message out there. We’re fighting for Black people and what they’ve gone through. It’s time to make the uncomfortable, comfortable. We have to talk about the facts. It’s time to make real change and I encourage to not just talk about it, but be about it. Sign petitions, be engaged and understand what is pushing the Black Lives Matter movement.”