TORONTO, Canada–One of the league’s most significant awards was handed out today as Major League Soccer revealed that Black Players for Change (BPCMLS) has been named the 2020 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year.
Founded earlier this season, Toronto FC defender and pending free agent Justin Morrow played a crucial role as Executive Director of the Black Players for Change coalition, an organization now consisting of over 170 players, coaches and staff members of MLS clubs, working to bridge the gap in racial equality.
Involved in several off-field initiatives, the committee has been a leading voice in the fight against racial injustice as the a committee has made tremendous strides this season trying to break systemic barriers. Before kickoff of the MLS is Back Tournament opening match in July, BPC organized and led a peaceful demonstration for racial equality and human rights. During the moment of solidarity, the Black players of MLS wore custom designed T-shirts sporting the phrases “Silence is Violence,” “Black and Proud” and “Black All The Time.”
“First and foremost, we’re all really proud of Justin (Morrow) and the role that he has taken with Black Players for Change,” Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley told media earlier this month. “Many of our other Black players have played a prominent role in their organization in trying to really take all of the tragedy from this year and turn it into meaningful change. To see up close how much Justin and all of our Black Players—to see how much they’ve put into it—that part’s been quite honestly incredible: the way they can do that, yet still manage to come everyday ready to train and ready to play, that part’s special.”
While the recognition from fellow players, staff, and media members will undoubtedly be welcomed by Morrow and the committee—who has put in an unheralded amount of work this year—he’ll be the first to tell you that the job remains far from finished.
“A lot of what we have done up until this point has been for recognition, acknowledgement, awareness of the problems,” Morrow said to Kristian Jack, Luke Wileman, and Stephen Caldwell on a recent episode of Footy Talks Live. “Now as an organization, were starting to move into the programming and initiatives.”
A historic moment, as the @MLSWORKS Humanitarian of the Year has been awarded to Black Players for Change @KristianJack sat down with @BPCMLS executive director Justin Morrow, to discuss the importance of this award, and why it could never go to just one player. pic.twitter.com/qg8DW6keNF— TSN Soccer (@TSNSoccer) December 8, 2020
As a whole, and with Morrow at the helm, BPC has been a leading voice in the fight against racial inequality. So much so that their impact resonated onto other clubs around MLS, including J-Mow’s Toronto FC.
“I think when you look at our club, MLSE, Toronto as a city, what makes it so special is the diversity and the willingness to accept and include people of all different backgrounds, and I think Justin and Toronto FC and MLSE and the city of Toronto are at the forefront of a lot of what’s going on in terms of trying to push for racial equality, social justice,” said Bradley. “So to be a part of this club, to be able to call Toronto home, that part is extremely special and I’m proud of that…”
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney echoed those same sentiments when the club became the first MLS team to officially partner with Black Players for Change.
“MLSE is again stepping up as leaders of the community and working with TFC and Black Players for Change to raise money and awareness through the 50/50 raffle and other means to create programs that advantageous for the cause,” Vanney told media. “So I think it’s just, again, another sign of our organization and our greater organization being aware of the world and the social injustices and trying to actually take words and put it into the action.”
A first-class professional, Morrow has been with Toronto FC since 2014, ranking second on the club’s all-time appearances list. A crucial part of the club’s treble-winning 2017 side, 2020 may just be the veteran fullback’s most impressive yet.
MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year Winners:
- 2020: Black Players for Change
- 2019: Matt Lampson (LA Galaxy)
- 2018: Matt Lampson (Minnesota United)
- 2017: Ryan Hollingshead (FC Dallas)
- 2016: Matt Lampson (Chicago Fire)
- 2015: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC)
- 2014: A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy)
- 2013: Matt Reis (New England Revolution)
- 2012: Chris Seitz (FC Dallas)
- 2011: Zak Boggs (New England Revolution)
- 2010: Seth Stammler (New York Red Bulls)
- 2009: Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards); Logan Pause (Chicago Fire)
- 2008: Jose Burciaga Jr. (Colorado Rapids)
- 2007: Diego Gutierrez (Chicago Fire)
- 2006: Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution)
- 2005: Brian Kamler (Real Salt Lake)
- 2004: Chris Henderson (Colorado Rapids)
- 2003: Ben Olsen (D.C. United)
- 2002: Steve Jolley (MetroStars)
- 2001: Tim Howard (MetroStars)
- 2000: Abdul Thompson Conteh (San Jose Earthquakes)