TORONTO, Canada—Major League Soccer today unveiled a series of initiatives to combat racism, advocate for social justice and increase representation of people of colour in the sport.
“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 in a press release. “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.”
In addition to MLS owners contributing $1 million to Black Players For Change—a committee led by Toronto FC veteran Justin Morrow—to aid in the growth of the organization in the coming years, the MLS league office, along with the MLS Board of Governors and member clubs, have committed to the following initiatives (via MLS’ press release)
MLS Diversity Committee – The creation of this group, which will be part of the formal MLS committee structure, 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. Among the committee’s goals will be to work with the league to develop a strategy toward diversity, inclusion, opportunity and social justice, including supporting and championing the proposed initiatives.
Civic Engagement Initiative – MLS will use league resources to address issues of public concern among marginalized communities. Areas of focus will include the recently created MLS Unites to Vote initiative, along with turnkey programs that encourage community participation in civic activities.
Soccer Upward Mobility Initiative – MLS will provide access, exposure, and clearly defined career paths that develop talent from underrepresented groups. This initiative will include developing pathways of entrance and advancement for emerging and current talent, in addition to creating policies and an educational ecosystem to increase Black representation in executive and sporting positions at the league office, the member clubs and other North American soccer organizations.
Youth and Grassroots Community Initiative – MLS will use league resources to close the representation gap across the broad spectrum of the sport in North America with the goal of increasing participation and opportunity for members of underserved communities. This initiative will include collaborating with MLS NEXT to increase representation among players, coaches and referees.
Supplier Diversity Program – MLS is building a Supplier Diversity Program to provide meaningful opportunities and economic inclusion to minority-owned businesses. This will include spending around MLS major events, hiring of agencies, and the selection of vendors, among many areas of league and club business.
Partnerships with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and 100 Black Men of America – MLS has formed partnerships with 100 Black Men of America and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. In addition to a financial commitment, MLS will collaborate with both organizations to develop long-term programming centered around mentorship, workplace development, social justice, health and wellness, and financial literacy.
I’ll go ahead and file this under things that you absolutely love to see.
For what it’s worth, Toronto FC general manager Ali Curtis was the first and remains the only Black GM in all of MLS—and there has yet to be a Black president or owner in the history of the league. But as we have seen today, change is coming, and at the very least, this a giant step in the right direction for all parties involved.
If Toronto FC fans want to learn more or get further involved in the fight against social injustice, be sure to check out the TFC BIPOC Fan Coalition.