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Be the change

Football

While athletes’ voices are powerful on their own, backing from teams and strong action taken throughout organizations are imperative if we want to see real and necessary change driven by sports.

June 04, 2020
LARS BARON/AFP
LARS BARON/AFP

The GIST: While athletes’ voices are powerful on their own, backing from teams and strong action taken throughout organizations are imperative if we want to see real and necessary change driven by sports.

What soccer is doing: Germany’s Bundesliga, one of the only major leagues currently playing, saw four players publicly show their support during matches last weekend. One of the players, Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, received a yellow card after taking off his jersey (a no-no) to reveal a handwritten “Justice for George Floyd” message on his undershirt.

  • FIFA (soccer’s highest governing body), thankfully, was having none of that. In a unique official statement, the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, called for Sancho to be praised instead of punished.
     
  • On-pitch activism is usually discouraged in soccer, but Infantino’s statement is a powerful door-opener in a sport that battles longstanding racism. Progress, people!

How the NCAA is helping: Kevin Warren, the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference (the oldest Division I sports conference in the NCAA) has created the Big Ten Conference Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition. The coalition will partner with existing diversity councils on school campuses in an effort to empower and educate students.

  • Warren, who is the first and only Black commissioner of a Power Five conference (the top five conferences in the NCAA Division I), said in the official coalition announcement that “George Floyd’s death cannot be in vain.”

The Philly Special: While many (not all) NFL teams have made official statements regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, the Philadelphia Eagles took it a step further: Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, who rarely participates in team meetings, joined a closed meeting with players and coaches for a discussion on race relations.

  • Lurie encouraged an open and honest dialogue between the Eagles team, which compelled players like Jason Kelce to speak out on social media.
     
  • And, Lurie also pledged to dedicate more resources to work on reform within the organization, and the team will continue to raise money for the Eagles Social Justice Fund.