Reggie Cannon said it was "absolutely disgusting" that some supporters booed FC Dallas and Nashville SC players who kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before Wednesday's MLS game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The demonstration from the Dallas players came amid a national movement for racial justice, which MLS players have been at the forefront of with the recently formed Black Players for Change.
"I think it was disgusting. I think it was absolutely disgusting," Cannon said in a powerful response following the game. "You got fans booing you for people taking a stand for what they believe in. Millions of other people support this cause and we discussed with every other team and the league what we’re going to do and we’ve got fans booing us in our own stadium. How disgraceful is that? Honestly, for lack of a better word, it pissed me off. ... You can’t even have support form your own fans in your own stadium. It’s baffling to me."
The U.S. international said that the Dallas players' plan to kneel had been communicated to Nashville and the league and that they would have kneeled whether the anthem was played or not, adding that he had requested the anthem not to be played. MLS Commissioner Don Garber explained during a media call on Saturday that the national anthem would be played when fans were in attendance as part of the pre-game ceremonies but, as in the MLS is Back Tournament, would not be played when supporters were not present.
All players kneeled prior to the kickoff of games during the recent tournament in Orlando and MLS has continued to support players' right to peacefully protest during the playing of the national anthem.
The reaction from some fans was particularly upsetting, Cannon explained, given that the club was playing its first match since March after they were withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament when a number of players tested positive for COVID-19.
"As a team, we try to give the best possible product on that field and these last six months have been absolute hell for us," he said. "And the opportunity presented itself to play tonight and unfortunately we’re mad and upset not to get the win but I was pissed. Everyone around me was pissed.
"Ryan Hollingshead, the first thing he said to me after we got up from the knee he said 'I'm sorry.' I’m sorry for our fans because we had someone chanting 'USA' when they don’t understand what keeling means, they don’t understand why we’re kneeling, they can’t see the reason, they just think we’re the ignorant ones and it’s incredibly frustrating. And I’m sorry to have this tone but you have to call it for what it is. I even know when we decided to kneel I knew it was going to happen. That should tell you something, I knew we were going to have some negative pushback from having a unified response over what’s going on. That’s the problem, that’s a problem."
Ahead of the first game of the MLS is Back Tournament last month, more than 170 of the league's Black players raised a fist in unison to protest against racial injustice. And Cannon reiterated that the unified response will continue.
"It hurts me because I love our fans I love this club and I want to see the support that the league has given us, that everyone has given us from our fans," he said. "I love the people that came out tonight but as soon as I heard that boo I tried to play on and I knew what to expect. We’ll take it one day at a time and again we’re unified in this response and everyone stands together, black, white, orange, everyone stands together in this."
There were 2,912 fans in attendance at Toyota Stadium following strict social distancing rules in the first MLS match with fans since the COVID-19 induced suspension back on March 12. FC Dallas had a limited capacity for the match according to a plan and protocol created with the guidance of medical experts and approved by local government officials. It was also required to meet CDC guidelines and comply with MLS protocols that were developed in consultations with infectious disease specialists.