Major League Soccer will take a stand against racism Saturday in taking part in FIFA's Say No to Racism Day. The initiative has been a prominent feature of the 2006 World Cup, which is taking place in Germany.
Prior to Saturday's MLS matches in New England, Kansas City and Los Angeles, all teams in action will take the field alongside children carrying banners bearing the "Say No to Racism" logo. MLS stadiums will incorporate Say No to Racism field boards, as well, and accompanying announcements will be made over each venue's public-address system.
"With players born in 44 different countries, our league reflects the broad range of ethnicities that love the game of soccer and that live in the United States," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "We applaud FIFA's ongoing efforts to fight racism and use soccer as a means of fostering cross-cultural understanding. We are glad to participate in Say No to Racism Day."
FIFA created the anti-racism initiative to promote the diversity of soccer around the world and to emphasize that racism and discrimination have no place in the sport of soccer. Say No to Racism Day will also be celebrated at Saturday's World Cup quarterfinals in Germany.
FIFA's campaign is one of several around the world that have aimed in recent years to eradicate racism from soccer stadiums. Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry, who is black and has been the target of alleged racism himself, spearheads the "Stand Up, Speak Up" campaign, while England's Football Association has for more than a dozen years fought racism in its stadiums with the "Let's Kick Racism Out of Football" campaign.
Led by President Sepp Blatter, FIFA has mandated that all national soccer associations institute a new set of rules and stiffer penalties for racist actions by fans, players or officials. These penalties include the deduction of points - starting at three points for a first offense and rising to automatic relegation for a third offense - and hefty fines.
Major League Soccer has a no-tolerance policy toward racism. MLS is committed to a league environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. The league prohibits and will not tolerate any discrimination or harassment on the basis of race.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.