TORONTO, Canada—Amidst a particularly indelible year for Toronto FC—one that has brought a pandemic, a burgeoning political movement that has transformed societal interaction, and a roster riddled with injuries—stands Justin Morrow; and, to put it in his words, 2020 has been “an absolute whirlwind.”
Of course, when he appeared on a recent episode of Footy Talks, he described not this year, but his position as head of the Black Players Coalition of Major League Soccer (MLS) as a whirlwind. The conflation of fundamentally disparate contexts and spheres—sports and politics to name the two most obvious—is something that has become more commonplace in modernity, and it is something Morrow is getting accustomed to as he helps dictate the objectives and directions of the committee.
“A lot of what we have done up until this point has been for recognition, acknowledgement, awareness of the problems,” he said to Kristian Jack, Luke Wileman, and Stephen Caldwell. “Now as an organization, were starting to move into the programming and initiatives.”
His goal? To allow the same opportunities he had as a youth—making special mention of his hard working working parents and a humble upbringing devoid of entitlement—to other Black people.
“Our platform is very large we know that, and we carry that responsibility really well, and we wear that on our sleeves every day,” he said before letting slip his secret plan to utilize fan adoration and his MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year nomination to run for president. “We’ve started with mobilizing our fans and engaging our fans to get involved in the election. And further beyond, we’re starting to develop programs and initiatives that will happen in local markets.”
But the Toronto FC figurehead is splitting his bureaucratic duties with his role on the pitch. In that regard, he was quick to cite the extreme difficulty of dealing with the rigours of professional football while in a hermetic bubble, as well as being cut off from one’s family, a frequent inspiration for Morrow personally.
“It’s an underwritten story about what the Canadian teams have had to endure. … The players go through a lot of emotional stress to perform week-in and week-out and still get results,” he said. “The hardest part is that it’s different than being in a preseason or a tournament where you can go out and find some other outlets. We’re here, we’re at the hotel, we have our meals together, we go out to training together, we go to games ... but you’re spending hours upon hours in the hotel.”
As with many Reds’ players, Morrow is now injured. Without the physicality of play to help intermediate his many responsibilities, things are becoming even more vicarious for the longtime defender.
“I’m dying to be out there with the guys fighting at the end of the day, but, to be honest, we’ve all done such an incredible job to get to this point.”
One of the greatest assets TFC has relied on to get through the season is the experience of core players like Justin Morrow. But even without him on the pitch, his tenure, and certainly his well known optimism, will invariably help the drive of the club.
Although, it is unlikely many will forget that he also brings skill to the table. This was never better showcased than in his fated hat-trick in 2017.
“Incredibly grateful to be a part of that team.”
Recall his humble upbringing devoid of entitlement.
While the year has certainly been a roller coaster for the entire organization, including the fans and players, Morrow’s priority remains the success of the squad. And, without him saying so directly, it is easy to sense that looking forward to the playoffs he—as always—has great expectations for the Reds.
“To be at this moment, it’s really incredible after everything that’s happened in 2020 ... I’m just really proud of this club and how we’re showing up.”