Please join Major League Soccer in celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (“AAPI”) Heritage Month throughout the month of May. Together with our Asians in MLS Employee Resource Group, MLS WORKS, the Soccer For All Speaker Series, and Extratime driven by Continental Tire, we invite you to check out this Extratime episode when Andrew Wiebe hosted New York Red Bulls captain Sean Davis in a conversation to shine light on important issues touching the AAPI community.
As the son of a Japanese mother, New York Red Bulls captain Sean Davis has personal knowledge of the Asian American experience. His story is just one of many, but is emblematic of the way members of the AAPI community have been underrepresented in the spaces we currently exist in and the retelling of American history.
"I think storytelling is a really powerful tool we can use to help people understand what we've dealt with, whether that's on the field, off the field," Davis said on a recent episode of Extratime. "It doesn't matter but hearing from us is extremely important."
Davis took the time to share his family's story. His maternal grandfather was from Hiroshima, Japan and was a veteran of the United States Army, serving as a translator during World War II. His maternal grandmother spent that period in a Japanese internment camp, something Davis noted is a dark moment of United States history sometimes goes untaught. His mother grew up in Fort Lee, New Jersey as one of a few Asian kids in her school, and faced bullying. The rise in anti-Asian discrimination is a new chapter of a long-standing problem.
"It's part of history but it's important to address," Davis said. "That's why I think, especially for me, it hits home when you see a lot of the subtle racism that we have towards Asians in our country. It was super frustrating last year when COVID came about."
Davis noted the selfishness of people, both well-known and not, who have used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to target members of the AAPI community.
"It's selfish because [they don't] care how it affects Asians in our country and how that's going to affect so many people that are Americans," Davis said. "I think it's no surprise that you see a lot of anti-Asian hate."
Davis also recalled an uptick in stories about AAPI hate during this year's preseason, and emphasized the importance of support and allyship he received from Black Players for Change. He noted the group's example, and the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement as one that opened up meaningful conversations that have continued as people begin to focus on AAPI hate.
"I remember being in preseason and we have a lot of time in the hotel room where you're reading things and maybe seeing things on the news and you're extremely frustrated," Davis said. "I'm thinking, 'What can I do? I feel a little lost here,' and that's when I reached out to Justin Morrow. He's given me some great direction and it's great to hear that the league has formed an ERG for Asian heritage and it's nice to know you're not alone in this process."