Over the past months, Black players around MLS have shared stories of their early memories of encountering racism in soccer. The tales spark a range of emotions that show how much progress remains, reminding the collective MLS community that the fight against racism is ongoing.
Chicago Fire FC defender Andre Reynolds, a Homegrown Player, entered the mix during a recent story that appeared in The Chicago Tribune. The 19-year-old shared a story from nearly a decade ago, before he joined the club’s youth ranks.
“Some kid’s mother got real mad at me and started arguing with my parents, starting arguing with me and ended up throwing out the N-word,” Reynolds recalled. “It was just a whole mess, but then we appealed to the league and they cracked down on it pretty quickly.”
Not even in middle school at the time, Reynolds saw an ugly side of life. But he’s also hopeful that Chicago’s P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth Soccer) Program can eradicate the hateful language and behaviors.
A child called a slur. A teammate abused by fans.— Jeremy Mikula (@jeremymikula) February 17, 2021
Soccer has a long history of racism — a global problem for a global game.
Black players on the Chicago Fire have experienced an all-too-common theme that's overt, subtle, direct and indirect. #cf97 #cffchttps://t.co/GYOK648wNr
P.L.A.Y.S. is designed to enhance the academic performance and development of key social and emotional (SEL) skills of elementary school students through a sports-based curriculum.
“If the Black community can really find soccer, it would love it,” Reynolds said. “We would commit ourselves to it because, at the end of the day, it’s a fun sport, it’s a global sport, it’s an opportunity for you to interact with all different types of people, all different types of races and nationalities.”
Another initiative that’s given Reynolds inspiration is Black Players for Change, a group of Black players, coaches and staff around MLS that have come together to address racism in the game and their communities. The group was named MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year in 2020.
“The coalition is just trying to improve the experience of the Black American, the Black human being,” Reynolds said. “We’re doing stuff with inner-city schools in different cities, also trying to expose the game to the Black community, whether that’s building fields or places for players to play in Black communities.”
For more from Reynolds and other Fire FC players on fighting racism – defenders Jhon Espinoza, Johan Kappelhof and Carlos Teran also discussed their experiences – check out the entire Tribune story here.