MLS players advocate for social change with patch, armband and warmup top

Along with a powerful opening protest from the Black Players for Change, the MLS is Back Tournament includes several highly-visible symbols calling for social change.

During each club's first game, players will make a statement with a personal touch on a special “MLS Unites” jersey patch. In addition to the MLS, MLS WORKS and MLS Players’ Association logos, it contains a blank space for players to write the name of someone they want to honor with an inspirational message.

The individual can be a nurse, doctor or other essential worker on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic; someone committed to driving positive social change and ending racial injustice through the Black Lives Matter movement; or an individual who’s been a victim of COVID-19 or police brutality. Players could also elect to write in a name or message that has significant meaning to them.

The initiative is spearheaded by the Black Players for Change group, which has over 170 Black MLS players, and comes in coordination with MLS and MLS Black Staff United, the league’s employee resource group for Black employees. Among other goals, the BPC aims to increase diversity hiring, create cultural and educational initiatives and collaborate on league-wide implicit bias training. They also look to advance attention on human rights inequalities and positively impact Black communities.

Players and teams are also taking several other initiatives to make their voices heard:

Captain’s armband

Each club’s captain will sport an armband that showcases support for the Black Lives Matter movement. They’re designed in collaboration with or with the support of the Black players in each city.

That’s evident in the first MLS is Back Tournament game, with Inter Miami goalkeeper Luis Robles working with the Black Players Coalition to include the club’s motto of “Unidad.” It’s meant to present strength in unity alongside the Black Lives Matter movement, with the overall message geared towards inclusion and equality.

As for Orlando City, their armband is inspired by the historically-Black neighborhood of Parramore, where Exploria Stadium is located. It pays tribute to landmarks of the community, with a strikethrough placed through Division Avenue’s street sign, reflecting Orlando’s support of renaming what’s typically separated the white community to the east (downtown Orlando), and the Black community to the west (Parramore). There’s also a red, black and green three-color palette behind the "BLM" letters as a reference to the iconic Pan-African flag.

Warmup tops

Players will also sport a Black Players for Change shirt during warmups, with the design led by Philadelphia Union midfielder Warren Creavalle. He runs his own clothing brand, and the shirts acknowledge and identify players who have been impacted by racial justice.

MLS connected Creavalle with adidas to develop further apparel items that’ll be featured starting July 9.