MLS team the Philadelphia Union returned to action on Thursday with a match against New York City FC. The team used the opportunity to highlight Black victims of police brutality. Instead of using their own surnames on jerseys, the players opted for (George) Floyd, (Breonna) Taylor, (John) Crawford, (Eric) Garner, (Alton) Sterling and (Tamir) Rice.
The team walked out for the match wearing Black Lives Matters shirts before removing them for a group photo. They turned around and revealed the tribute names on their jerseys. The team also tweeted out a message reading, "Our players stand together. One name too many." The players delivered another message during the game with their shin guards, which featured the words: "enough is enough #endracism."
The Philadelphia Union's jerseys are honoring the names of members of the Black community who lost their lives to police brutality. pic.twitter.com/NWQZrlgvpq— ESPN (@espn) July 9, 2020
According to the announcers during Thursday's match, the Union did not provide any information about the demonstration. New York City FC had informed MLS of plans to pay tribute to those impacted by COVID-19. Philadelphia, on the other hand, kept their plans secret.
"It was to continue the conversation that needs to be had. We first and foremost asked our team if they were OK with it because solidarity is key and we want to make sure everybody feels comfortable," defender Ray Gaddis said after the match. "Actions are louder than words. Again, it's to further the conversation and to continue to use our platform to be a voice for the voiceless. It was a collective group effort."
Gaddis continued to explain that it was important for the team to be unified and on board with social change. He said that the team has great solidarity both on the field and away from it. Gaddis also told reporters that the coach and the organization have both taken a stance with the players, which will make them better human beings in the future.
"At the start, certainly things going on in our country are far bigger than soccer," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "I have to say I'm very proud of my players throughout the past four months for the leadership they've shown, the leadership role they've taken in the BLM movement, educating the other players on our team. The idea today was action over permission; I hope the league understands that. It was done to show respect, to learn, to grow, to make our country better. I'm really proud of my players for everything they've done."