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MLS looks to combat racism and increase black participation

Major League Soccer (MLS) has unveiled a series of initiatives that will be rolled out to aid in the fight against racism and increase the participation of black individuals in the sport.

The new schemes are said to have been created after several months of discussions, including a meeting with the newly formed Black Players for Change (BPC), an organisation created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd earlier this year, which sparked protests across the world.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in Monday’s announcement: “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.

“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.”

Black Players for Change will receive $1 million, contributed to by MLS owners, as part of the proposals in order to help support and grow the organisation, which is made up of 170 of the leagues Black players.

The initiatives set out by the MLS league office and MLS board of governors and members include:

· MLS Diversity Committee: The new group will be made up of MLS owners, BPC members, club executives, head coaches, academy coaches, former MLS players and members of Pitch Black (resource group of Black employees from MLS’s league office). The committee’s goals will be to develop strategies towards diversity, inclusion, opportunity and social justice, as well as supporting the proposed initiatives.

· Civic Engagement Initiative: MLS will use league resources to look into issues of public concern amongst marginalised communities, with a focus on the MLS Unites to Vote initiative and other programmes encouraging community participation in civic activities.

· Soccer Upward Mobility Initiative: Access, exposure and defined career pathways to develop talent from underrepresented groups. There will be policies and education provided to increase Black representation in executive and sporting positions at the league office, members club and North American soccer organisations.

· Youth and Grassroots Community Initiative: Aimed at closing the representation gap across sport in North America to increase participation and opportunities for underserved communities, including collaborating with MLS NEXT to increase representation among players, coaches and referees.

· Supplier Diversity Programme: Providing meaningful opportunities and economic inclusion to minority-owned businesses.

· Partnerships with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and 100 Black Men of America: The MLS has partnered with 100 Black Men of America and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, committing both financially and through collaboration to develop long-term programming, concentrated on mentorship, workplace development, social justice, health and wellness and financial literacy.

The announcement comes shortly after Major League Baseball (MLB) committed $10 million to help increase Black American participation across baseball, funding programmes and initiatives formed by the Players Alliance, with some comparable to those proposed by the MLS and equally centred on improving the diversity in their respective sports.

Author: Jake Wilkin