Five MLS matches were called off Wednesday after games in the NBA, WNBA and Major League Baseball were also scrapped as athletes across the four leagues refused to play in order to draw attention to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and demand change.
The day’s first MLS game, between Orlando City and Nashville SC, kicked off as scheduled. But after the next match in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, between Inter Miami and Atlanta United was postponed, the four remaining games were, too.
The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio was the first to report the news.
MLS players had taken a strong stance against systemic racism and police brutality directed at Black people already this summer, following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American killed while in police custody in Minnesota in May.
In June, more than 70 MLS players formed the Black Players for Change coalition. Players and coaches donned t-shirts emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” throughout the league’s five-week, World Cup-style MLS is Back Tournament that ran from July 8 to earlier this month. Athletes and officials took a knee in silent protest before every game.
The Miami and Atlanta players made the decision not to play just minutes before that contest was supposed to begin, Inter defender and 12-year MLS veteran A. J. DeLaGarza told the club’s broadcast team.
“The Black Players for Change asked us not to play, and I think at that point, we respect them, and we have to respect why we wear these shirts, and that’s to make a change and have our voices heard,” DeLaGarza said. “I think we had to make a very tough decision in front of our coaches minutes before walking out here.”
Blake survived the shooting but was paralyzed from the waist down, according to his lawyer, and remains hospitalized. The MLS Players Association released the following statement after the postponements Wednesday:
In addition to Inter Miami-Atlanta, games between FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids, LAFC and Real Salt Lake, and the LA Galaxy and defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders were also postponed. It was not immediately clear when they would be made up, or if the 12 matches slated for this weekend will go ahead as planned.
The MLS regular season resumed on Aug. 12 following a five-month hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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