With the Seattle Sounders’ 2020 MLS season done and dusted, let’s take a look at five of the biggest off-field storylines from the year that was.
There’s no other place to start in 2020 other than the global coronavirus pandemic. MLS suspended play after just the second match of the season in early March, resumed in July with the MLS is Back tournament and then finished an abridged season with regional scheduling. Sounders forward Raúl Ruidíaz and midfielder Gustav Svensson were among those who tested positive during the season while away with their respective national teams. A member of the Sounders coaching staff also tested positive.
In an effort to combat the devastating economic impact of COVID-19, the Sounders and RAVE Foundation established the Sounders Relief Fund, which supported individuals, small business and nonprofits located in the stadium and the neighborhoods surrounding the area. The foundation awarded more than $1 million to over 100 businesses and nearly 800 individuals.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
En route to Orlando, Fla., for the MLS is Back tournament, the Sounders collectively wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts. The player-driven initiative formed from a team meeting held in the days leading up to their departure. The Sounders also began kneeling before kickoff of every match and often wore BLM shirts during warmups.
Ahead of the match against LAFC in September, Sounders FC players used their platform to call for justice for Manny Ellis.
“We wanted to make a statement that this is happening also in our backyard and happening just about the same time and just something that is happening everywhere,” said Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “And for us, I think we want it to raise awareness that we’re also not just jumping on a bandwagon, but we’re looking at our neighborhood and how we can maybe help our community to find a solution and to bring awareness as well.”
GALAXY MATCH POSTPONEMENT
In the same vein, the Sounders and LA Galaxy mutually agreed to postpone their match on Aug. 26 in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wis.
“For us, this fight for equality is so much bigger than sports,” said Sounders forward Jordan Morris. “You see what has happened with Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor, there hasn’t been justice. There’s been no arrests. It seems like nothing has changed. So as an organization, as a club, as players, we came together to show our support and solidarity with the Black community and to really try to be a driving force for change.”
“WE ARE ALL SOUNDERS” SOCIAL JUSTICE FRAMEWORK
The day before the scheduled Galaxy match, the Sounders launched their “We are all Sounders” initiative, which focuses on four arenas for change: fight racism, defend the right to play, stand for LGBTQ+ equality and protect our planet.
“This year has forced us all to look at the world anew — to face uncomfortable truths in our community and, in doing so, galvanize us to act,” said Sounders FC Majority Owner Adrian Hanauer. “We want to change our community to be a more just and inclusive place to live. But we know that change, real systemic change, will require all of us — our entire Sounders FC family.”
The Sounders asked, challenged and implored everyone to vote, both locally and nationally, every damn time.