Darren Eales admits he might not be the most well-versed when it comes to America’s deep-rooted issues of racial inequality.
But the English-born president of Atlanta United also realizes the issues that sparked widespread protests following the death of George Floyd, are his to address.
“It's been a time of deep reflection, introspection in my respect,” he told reporters on a call Thursday. “I’m not from America, but this is my home now. This is where my wife's from, when my two boys were born and these systemic issues of inequality, race and injustice are not uniquely American, they’re human issues we all have to confront. But they're complex and they're uncomfortable and they're difficult to unravel.”
To help, Eales said he read the famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" penned by Atlanta-born Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.
It was his first time reading the letter, but it helped him gain a greater understanding of his role in helping influence change. Those words, penned more than 50 years ago, ring as true today as it did during the civil rights unrest of the 1960s.
“It was easy for me to say, well this isn't really my issue to speak on because I'm not American, I don't have a vote,” Eales said. “But he's clear that this is everybody's issue, and just because I feel sort of like I shouldn't be voicing my views is not an excuse not to speak out.”
The other valuable message, that “inaction can be just as bad as wrong action,” is something he shared with the club’s staff.
“When we launched Atlanta United we spoke about it being the city's club, about being a voice of the citizens, all of those things that we stand for for Atlanta United,” Eales said. “I think it's imperative for us, as a club, that we have a moral duty to speak out because we wear the name ‘Atlanta’ on our shirts.”
That’s perhaps even more imperative in a city Eales describes as the “cradle of the civil rights movement.”
“We’re Atlanta United, we’re the team that wants to give our fans a voice, we want to be something that unites the city,” Eales said. “We have an obligation really to speak out.”
Having an owner in Arthur Blank, who has been at the forefront of social justice and trying to fix systemic racism through his foundation, is important. But Eales said it's critical for Atlanta United as a club, and it's supporters, to take that next important, and complex, step.
“This is something I challenge myself, our associates, our players, our fans to think about it and do what we can and to unite in terms of trying to solve this problem,” Eales said. “I haven’t got a ready answer for that. It’s going to be difficult, but you can be sure that there's something that's going to be a focus for the club and I hope it's a focus for our supporters as well.”