THERE was always going to be turbulence when the MLS returned to action in the United States.

Sport, political and social agendas are not mutually exclusive, it seems.

Players from across the MLS joined in a pre-match demonstration kneeling and raising their fists for eight minutes and 46 seconds, as the league resumed since the forced abandonment in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The FC Dallas and opposition players were among those who chose to kneel during the national anthem before their match with Nashville, recently.

It was met with a chorus of booing from the meagre 3,000 crowd in attendance.

FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon condemned the booing.

“How disgraceful is that?” said Cannon.

“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.

“I think it was absolutely disgusting.”

Black American George Floyd died after being pinned to the floor – by the police officer kneeling on his neck – for eight minutes and 46 seconds by policeman Derek Chauvin on the 25th May.

Chauvin has since been charged with murder and the incident prompted mass protests across the world.

The death of George Floyd had since spawned the Black Lives Matters movement. A number of sports people across the divide supported the initiative, adding their considerable collective weight on social media and the adoption of Colin Kaepernick’s taking the knee during the national anthem and a symbol of oppression.

Cannon added:

“They don’t understand why we’re kneeling – they can’t see the reason, they just think we’re the ignorant ones and it’s incredibly frustrating.

“When we decided to kneel I knew it was going to happen. That should tell you something. I knew we were going to have some negative pushback from having a unified response over what’s going on.

“That’s a problem.”

“It was emotional for the ones who were there,” said Orlando’s Nani.

“We all want to change the world. We want a better world – no differences, no discrimination. Everyone in the world should stop for a couple of minutes and think about our children and teach them how to be a better person and create a better world.”

As Orlando and Inter Miami players took a knee around the centre circle, players from the other teams stood around them and one-by-one raised their fist.

Each wore face masks emblazoned with ‘Black Lives Matter’, while some wore T-shirts with slogans including ‘silence is violence’ and ‘black and proud’.

Montreal Impact head coach Thierry Henry also took a knee for the eight minutes 47 seconds duration of his side’s match with the New England Revolution to express his support.

The fixture was part of the MLS is Back Tournament, which takes a group stage and knockout format and runs until 11 August, 2020.

The question remains as to whether individuals retain their rights not to kneel as part of their belief systems. Should they be condemned, or vilified, ironically for their stance? There are other ways to protest.

People may choose not to kneel because they believe politics and social issues do not have a place in sport.

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, while disappointed in some of his colleagues who chose not to take the knee, was more understanding and philosophical.

How long should the symbolic protests remain in place at sporting events?

Ludo Aequitas – Equality Through Sport – welcomes your views


Images via Skysports, DailyMail & ESPN

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