San Jose Earthquakes' Danny Hoesen on racism, Black Lives Matter: "People start to open their eyes"

Danny Hoesen - San Jose Earthquakes - running - close-up

Danny Hoesen has plenty on his plate.

He and his San Jose Earthquakes teammates have been on site in Orlando, Florida for two weeks now ahead of the MLS is Back Tournament, having been the first team to arrive due to restrictions on their ability to conduct team training sessions back home in the Bay Area.

They’ve got Group B matches ahead against defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders, the Vancouver Whitecaps and now know they'll also be facing Chicago Fire FC, who were moved into the group following Nashville SC's withdrawal from the tournament.

Sadly, racism can still intrude at any moment, as Hoesen revealed to reporters on a conference call on Wednesday.

“A few days back I even received myself on Instagram a racist message,” said the striker when discussing his perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement and the wider conversation on race and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. “And I was able to share that with the team, without going into details.

“Even guys that are not of color and lived in this country for long, they even apologized and said that ‘we had no idea this was going on, and what these guys are going through.’ So I think it's good that everybody starts to stick together and address the problem.”

Hoesen, whose father is Moroccan and mother is Dutch, plied his trade in the Netherlands, England, Finland and Greece before joining the Quakes in 2017. He’s made MLS and the United States his home, receiving his green card last year, and he and his wife welcomed their first child, Damian, in 2017, and have another on the way.

He’s still learning about this country and its history, and is watching closely to see how it moves forward in the wake of the seismic upheavals of the past few months, especially with national elections in November. But his faith in it remains.

“I've been reading and watching the news a lot more,” he said. “But for me it's really hard to compare because I'm from a country with 18 million people, and this is such a big country with such big diversity and such a big history.

“It's not that racism is only in America; it's in Europe, it's in Asia, it's everywhere. And so from that perspective, I'm not surprised,” he added. “My opinion, it didn't change much. I'm just very curious how the country is going to handle it, how the president is going to handle it. People start to see that it's time for a change and that's going to be very interesting in the next couple of months.”

MLS players have already used the tournament as a platform for public expressions of support for BLM and the fight against racism. Ahead of Wednesday's opening game, Black Players for Change — an organization of more than 170 of the league's Black players — led a powerful on-field demonstration, and on Thursday Philadelphia Union players chose to wear the names of Black victims of police brutality on their jerseys. And Hoesen believes it’s an opportunity that must be seized.

“It's time for change. Unfortunately, the things that happened the past few months shouldn't have happened at any time and now that we, especially as athletes, we do have a platform to speak up about this topic, I think it's good,” he said. “People start to open their eyes.”

The Quakes open their MiB slate on Friday vs. Seattle (9 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes; TSN, TVA Sports in Canada).