MLS Players Boycott
Atlanta United and Inter Miami pose for a picture pregame wearing Black Lives Matter attire. Shortly after the picture, both teams left the pitch to boycott police brutality. (Photo: Darren Eales | Twitter)

MLS players boycott games amid Jacob Blake protests

For the second time in 2020, Major League Soccer has been forced to cancel games. But unlike the first time, when COVID-19 forced the cancelation of leagues across the world, this was on the players’ accord. Five scheduled games did not take place Wednesday night as MLS players agreed to boycott for social justice following the shooting of Jacob Blake.

On Sunday, August 23, Kenosha, Wis. police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times after attempts to tase him didn’t work, leaving him paralyzed. Now, after protests erupted around the United States, professional athletes across the MLB, MLS, NBA and WNBA are showing their solidarity by simply not playing their scheduled games. 

“We, THE PLAYERS, decided to not play tonight. Some things are bigger than soccer and things need to change. We are together in this no matter the color. #BlackLivesMatter,” FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon said in a tweet Wednesday night. 

Black athletes are tired of being entertainers in a country where they wouldn’t be respected off the pitch, field or court. 

Just two weeks ago, FC Dallas supporters booed as players knelt for the national anthem to protest police brutality. 

“I think it was disgusting. I think it was absolutely disgusting,” Cannon said postgame. “You got fans booing you for people taking a stand for what they believe in. Millions of other people support this cause and we discussed with every other team and the league what we’re going to do and we’ve got fans booing us in our own stadium. How disgraceful is that?”

Now, players are making the decision to not just wear shirts that say Black Lives Matter, but to make use of their platform for social change. 

“I’m old enough to remember when people and groups promised never to remain silent amid systemic oppression and blatant police brutality,” Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse said on Twitter. “I’m also old enough to realize that people ‘finding their unique’ lanes of activism often meant forgetting about it and pushing for business as usual.”

Ebobisse, part of the MLS’ Black Players for Change coalition, has been one of the most vocal players regarding Black rights since the murder of George Floyd. But even more so now, he is calling on MLS supporters to continue fighting for reform. 

“Don’t ask Black people when we can ‘return’ to easy going normalcy. Don’t ask us when we can ‘move on’ from the moment,” he said. “Ask yourself what you’re willing to do to put yourself and community on track to dismantling oppressive systems, while calling for and holding people accountable.” 

And as the MLS tries to champion itself for canceling games, the truth is it was the players’ decision—not the league’s. 

“We want to let all of the fans know that we made a collective decision between both locker rooms to not play tonight to stand-up and fight for social change,” Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said in a press release. 

There is no timetable for games to resume.