Over the last week, Jacob Blake was shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer, and athletes across sports elected to put their games on hold to bring more attention to racial injustice and police brutality. Yesterday, the Black Players Alliance of the USL emerged to play a vital role in the sport of soccer’s push for racial equality here in the United States.
The USLBPA went public on Twitter and Instagram on Friday and announced their missions to empower and educate while cultivating a diverse league that has a positive impact on society. The Beautiful Game Network heard from Brandon Miller and Hugh Roberts of Charlotte Independence, who will both serve in leadership roles with the USLBPA, before their matchup with Birmingham Legion FC later today.
Hugh explained, “This week has been emotional to sum it all up. From seeing Jacob Blake get gunned down in front of his kids and having to live with another reality of a black man being shot by cops, to having to bottle up those emotions and play a game, that I honestly wasn’t sure if I could even play through it, was an emotional rollercoaster.”
“With the NBA canceling games, then a wave of other major league sports canceling their games in the wake of the Jacob Blake, it shook up the sports industry and showed us that we have to keep going and enforcing change,” he added. “That led us to announce ourselves this week and players throughout the whole USL protesting during games showing unity towards the movement.”
Brandon Miller took us back to the genesis of the USLBPA. “This process began back in early July after we had done a couple of episodes on Backyard Footy,” he recalled. “We started to realize that it would be important and powerful for us to come together as black players in the league to collectively express how we feel and what we want to see changed.”
Reflecting on those episodes of Backyard Footy, which he hosts, Roberts said, “I had over 20-30 guys across the USL and MLS come together and express the struggles and experiences we’ve persevered through over our childhood to become professionals. After those episodes, we had a constant dialogue about how we want to enforce change within our leagues.”
“After MLS did its movement and visuals during the bubble, we knew it was time for us to enforce change as well. We’re just getting started, but this was a historical moment the league and players needed.”
Currently, players from 39 clubs across the USL Championship and USL League One have joined the alliance with the goal of having at least one member from every team. New members are joining every day and are encouraged to reach out to the group. “Seeing hundreds of players throughout the Championship and League One, not only coming together, but wanting actual changes was beyond powerful. It brought tears to our eyes,” Roberts said. “Never would I have imagined being able to get a collective of players, the USL commissioner (Jake Edwards) himself, and the USLPA all behind us in full support and wanting to see change.”
“It got to a point where the whole league was asking us Black players how do WE want to see change and how do WE want to protest, never thought we’d have that control at this state.”
“In terms of leadership, we will begin announcing our leadership structure next week but we have a lot of strong voices in our group who are helping to guide this organization,” Miller said. “Having strong leaders, with vision and purpose, is important but we want to make sure we highlight and uplift all of our members’ voices.”
BGN had additional conversations with Miller, Roberts, and a few other members of the USLBPA about some very important topics like the ultimate goals for the organization, interaction with the league, the importance of voting, and more. We will bring you their responses and insight in upcoming articles.