When LAFC head coach Bob Bradley and midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye addressed the media as part of a virtual pre-match press conference ahead of their clash against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, there was seldom talk about the game.
Both Bradley and Kaye were focused on social justice, fighting alongside the Black Lives Matter movement against racial inequity, police brutality and more.
Bradley opened his availability with a powerful four-minute statement (which can be watched in full below) about injustice, division in America, policing and more.
Watch: Bradley's opening statement
"As a coach, we think about ‘we'. What are we about, what do we stand for?" Bradley told reporters. "Today, when I think about ‘we’, it’s not just our team. It’s not just LAFC. ‘We’ for me today is all the people that really want change. And I know that’s not everyone. The divisive rhetoric, the lies and misinformation—all we hear about is fear. They make it seem like ‘they’ are coming to our town, ‘they’ are coming to our city. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but I do know who we are. And I know we’re not getting the job done when we let any of that divisive rhetoric, misinformation and lies take away from what we need to be about. What we need to do.
“We need a real discussion on policing. That is simple. And I believe there is a majority of people in the U.S. that understand that. But we also support the police—we’re not anti-police. When we let them put an ad that has a phone ringing with an answering machine picking up calls, that gets in the way of the real things we need to be on top of. Somehow, we have to be better and smarter when we protest about police brutality. We have to make sure that protest is peaceful. Because if it’s not peaceful, it’ll end up on news and social media that’s going to take away from our efforts to get things where we need to be."
Kaye is a member of Black Players for Change and has been one of the league's vocal leaders since widespread protests swept the country following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.
“Soccer is a big part of my life, but right now there are a lot of things in the world that are much more important than the sport," Kaye said.
LAFC were one of the teams scheduled to play on Wednesday night but sat out, as games across sports in America were postponed in player-led movements to protest social injustice after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Kaye revealed that before the discussions started in his locker room about whether or not the team would play, he had already decided personally he wasn't going to take part in the game. When he conveyed that message to his teammates, and why he felt that was the right thing to do, they stood with him.
"Immense respect and support came from my players and teammates," Kaye said. "Once I expressed my feelings, they all backed me up. Wednesday was a big moment to know that it’s not just Black people in this fight, it’s all these other races and ethnicities that want to end racism because it affects everyone.”
Wednesday's historic events show solidarity between players in the fight against racism. Bradley believes the message conveyed was one of strong support and he is optimistic about effecting real change—as long as we don't allow ourselves to be divided.
“I believe there’s enough people on the right side of all of this," Bradley said. "But man oh man, if we let the words and the lies divide us, then they’re winning. Then we’re not smart, then we’re not good enough. That’s what’s going through my head at the moment.”