Minnesota United players pay tribute to George Floyd in first game since his killing

Michael Boxall George Floyd armband

Minnesota United are paying tribute to George Floyd during their MLS is Back Tournament opener against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. It's the Loons' first game since Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May. 

The team's players came together to request a captain's armband that read "George Floyd."

“I think we have to own up that this happened in our backyard," Minnesota midfielder Jacori Hayes said before the game. "We’re not using him as a mascot. We’re just reminding people that, at least in our community back home in Minnesota, that this happened here and hopefully we can affect change – starting here – that can spread to the rest of the world.”

Added forward Aaron Schoenfeld: “Obviously, it happened in Minneapolis. For us to be able to represent him and his family and his daughter and everything, I think it adds a bit more to us. A bit more pride, that we can continue to keep his name alive.”

As will continue through the first round of games, players will also have a name or personal message written on an MLS Unites patch on the back of their jerseys. The person can be someone driving positive social change and ending racial injustice through the Black Lives Matter movement, or a person who has been a victim of COVID-19 or police brutality. Players can also elect to write a name or message that has significant meaning to them.

Several Minnesota players used the patch to call for justice for Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police in March. Hayes will wear a different message on his shirt in each half.

“The 'dismantle systemic racism' one came right away," he said. "When it was first brought up, it’s something that, we’re talking a lot about police brutality right now, but there’s so many other facets of injustice that’s happening across this country. COVID-19 is a perfect example of that with how it’s overwhelmingly hitting the minority communities and then, you know, there’s also the wealth gap with housing. There’s a lot of topics on this. I just wanted to bring it to the people’s attention, it’s a lot more than police brutality and there’s a lot more. It’s not just one bad apple. It’s a whole system that’s in place and designed over years to disproportionately affect minorities. So, I wanted to bring that to the attention.

"The one with Breonna Taylor, it’s a killing that happened in March," he added. "And one police officer has been fired and two have been put on administrative leave. If I kill someone, it’s not like I just get fired. It’s something that they should at least be brought to court and see who is telling the truth. The police have had reports come out that don’t line up with what actually happened. So, I feel like the least that can happen is them being charged and this being brought to court and we can get down to the bottom of it, because things aren’t adding up.”