Major League Soccer announced today a series of programs and initiatives throughout Black History Month in February that will emphasize and amplify awareness, education and celebration of Black culture.
As part of the league’s continued efforts to bring awareness to the significant contributions of Black Americans, foster more inclusive and equitable communities, drive positive social change, and encourage racial reconciliation, MLS will highlight voices of the Black community, continue conversations about systemic racism and injustices, and provide educational resources and programming.
“Black History Month is a unifying moment to acknowledge and celebrate the sacrifice, leadership and significant contributions of Black Americans to U.S. history as well as its rich influence on global culture,” said Sola Winley, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer of Major League Soccer. “This will be a collective moment of awareness for Black achievement and a reaffirmation of the intentional work still required to build a more just, equitable and peaceful world for this and future generations to come.”
Kicking off Black History Month, D.C. United president of business operations Danita Johnson is the featured speaker tonight, Feb. 1, on a webinar titled, “Kickin’ it 100: How to Create Your Own Path, Personally and Professionally.” The event, presented by MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s social responsibility platform, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. (NCBW), will be hosted by FOX and San Jose Earthquakes analyst Danielle Slaton and streamed on Facebook Live nationwide.
Johnson’s remarks will explore the various paths to success and career achievement, while diving into her own personal journey that led her to becoming the first Black female president of an MLS club. This is the second year of the partnership between MLS and NCBW, which focuses on workforce and leadership development, health and wellness initiatives, as well as providing opportunities through soccer for Black women and girls.
MLS WORKS Soccer For All Speaker Series
Throughout February, MLS will feature a special slate of content across all league platforms that captures the spirit of Black History Month, celebrates Black trailblazers, and highlights stories and events that have made an impact on soccer.
Returning for its second year, the “Soccer For All Speaker Series,” a season-long program conducted by MLS WORKS in partnership with the League’s employee resource groups, will continue to amplify underrepresented voices. As part of Black History Month this February, MLS WORKS will collaborate with Pitch Black (MLS’ Employee Resource Group for Black League Staff), MLSsoccer.com’s flagship shows Extratime and The Call Up will shine a light on key issues facing the Black community.
Extratime’s Andrew Wiebe will host Ezra Hendrickson (head coach of Chicago Fire FC), Wilfried Nancy (head coach of CF Montréal) and Robin Fraser (head coach of Colorado Rapids) throughout the month of February, while The Call Up’s Jillian Sakovits and Susannah Collins will host Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson, sports broadcaster Danielle Slaton, and US men’s national team midfielder Gianluca Busio, a former Sporting Kansas City player. The full podcasts will be available later this month at MLSsoccer.com.
Black History Month Challenge, in collaboration with EverFi
MLS is also teaming up with EverFi, the leading social impact education innovator, to kick off a leaguewide Black History Month Challenge, a unique national competition to help high school students across the United States better understand the Black experience through education that highlights Black perspectives, successes, and struggles.
Students who complete the 30-minute course and submit a short essay are entered into a contest for a chance to win a $2,500 scholarship. The scholarship essay contest is open to all students in the U.S. ages 13-18 and ends on Feb. 28, 2022.
Weekly League Staff Sessions, presented by Pitch Black
Pitch Black is also leading weekly sessions including presentations with guest speakers, and engaging content for league office staff. Among the categories covered in these internal events for league employees are topics such as “The Black History of Soccer,” “Reflection—The State of Where We Are,” and “A Celebration of Black Culture & Black Joy.”
MLS Club Initiatives
MLS clubs are conducting programming and events throughout Black History Month in our local communities. For example, Minnesota United FC are highlighting Black-owned businesses in the Twin Cities with players visiting business owners for unscripted and impromptu conversations about the importance of representation in business.
The New England Revolution are launching the club’s second annual “Touches for C.H.A.N.G.E.” program, which aims to educate fans on New England’s proud Black history while raising funds to benefit the Boston Centers for Youth and Families. The Revolution will invite local youth soccer organizations to register and donate, while encouraging each to record touches with a soccer ball each day from Feb. 21-26.
On Feb. 17, New York City FC will take part in a mentorship discussion called “How Representation Matters in Leadership Roles for Black and Afro-Latinos.” After the discussion, participants will play in a 4v4 tournament on a mini-pitch built in Harlem by Black Players for Change and Black Women Players Collective. Additionally, on Feb. 11, NYCFC will kick off a virtual reading program in collaboration with Little Free Library to elevate their Read in Color initiative, which seeks to expand access to books by authors of color. Each month, a new guest reader will lead a Read-Aloud in an effort to bring literacy to New York City youth.
More information on club initiatives can be found at MLSsoccer.com and team websites.
Reaffirmation of MLS’ Long-Term Commitment
The initiatives throughout Black History Month 2022 build on the league’s long-term commitment to use its platform in the soccer community to build a more just and inclusive society. In October 2020, MLS unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at combatting racism, advocating for social justice and increasing Black representation in the sport.
In February 2021, MLS named Sola Winley as Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Over the last year, Winley, has led the efforts to increase representation, advancement and retention of underrepresented groups in sporting positions with the teams.
In December 2021, the league introduced a wide-ranging series of updates and enhancements to its Diversity Hiring Policy for sporting positions across the entire MLS ecosystem, which includes MLS, MLS youth academies and MLS NEXT, and MLS NEXT Pro, a new league beginning play this year. The changes were created by a working group of club personnel, league executives, and current and former MLS players.
For more information on league and club events and additional details on how MLS is celebrating Black History Month, visit MLSsoccer.com.