Sapong has been vocal on social media, and he has joined former teammate Kei Kamara on Instagram Live, Andrew Wiebe on Extratime, Taylor Twellman on ESPNFC's Banter and much more to share his perspective, hoping to foster change.
The Fire have been behind him every step of the way. Their statement condemning the murder of George Floyd was among the strongest in the league and included a pledge for real, lasting change. Head coach Raphael Wicky, born and raised in Switzerland, encourages Sapong and all of his players to use their platform for good.
“We’ve made a pledge to do more than just release a statement, to work on programs to fight racism and bring positive change," Wicky told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. "The club have spoken to players but more importantly, we’re listening to their opinion. We encourage the players to speak out, we’re against any sort of racism and violence.”
ICYMI, THIS is the response we need! We must hold the system and ourselves accountable if we are to usher in change at a systemic level! Thank you @ChicagoFire ready to #DoMore with you. 🙌🏿✊🏿✊🏾✊🏼✊🏻🙏🏿 https://t.co/1S6YBjEse1— CJ Sapong (@BigAfrika88) June 3, 2020
In his first season as head coach of the Fire after managing at Swiss powerhouse FC Basel and the United States U-17 national team, Wicky is setting his sights on having Sapong and the rest of the squad ready for MLS's tournament in Orlando.
The tournament, with further details yet to be announced, will be the first MLS matches since the beginning of March when the league was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Fire were one of the last teams in the league to be cleared to return to their team facility for voluntary individual training, Wicky trusts the work the players were able to do at home over the last three months.
“We’ll be ready like everyone else," Wicky said. “I honestly don’t think we’re at a disadvantage, I don’t believe in that. It was nice for players to go back to training facilities, but you were not able to do a ton. I don’t think anyone has an advantage by coming a week or two earlier than us. I think that would be looking for excuses.”
Shortly after allowing teams to advance to small group training, in line with health experts and local guidelines, MLS lifted its full team training moratorium. Teams can submit proposals for approval to return to full training, provided they have the requisite COVID-19 testing secured. When the Fire are able to fully return to the training pitch as such, there will be a focus on tactics and, simply, playing.
Players have been able to do physical work, but not a ton of soccer work. The break in play has also allowed Wicky and his staff, a new coaching staff with tremendous roster turnover from 2019, to dive further into tactics and philosophy.
“We’re really excited for this tournament," Wicky said. "It’s nice to have something coming up, rather than training with the uncertainty of not knowing when something will start. We’re excited that pretty soon we’ll be in full competition mode again.”