In a quest to increase Black representation and combat racism, Major League Soccer (MLS) has unveiled a series of initiatives to meet these goals. According to research presented by Forbes, black players make up approximately 25.6% (200) of 780 spots on MLS rosters.
The new programs, which include the formation of a Diversity Committee consisting of members of the Board of Governors, Commissioner Don Garber, representatives of the Black Players For Change (BPC) and other members of the soccer community, are the result of several months of discussions with key parties across the league, including a recent meeting between the Board and the BPC.
“Major League Soccer is committed to utilizing our wide-ranging platforms to create meaningful programs to address racism and social injustice in society and in the sport of soccer,” said Commissioner Don Garber.
“Importantly, alongside key stakeholders, including MLS owners, Black Players For Change, former players, Black members of our technical staff and other employees, we have created a series of initiatives to close the representation gap across soccer in the U.S. and Canada,” Garber continued.
As part of the proposals, MLS owners have contributed $1 million to Black Players for Change to help grow the organization in the coming years. The BPC features over 170 of the league’s Black players and was set up in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer in May, which sparked nationwide protests.
The league office, along with the Board of Governors and member clubs, have also committed to the following initiatives:
- MLS Diversity Committee: The new group, which will be part of the formal MLS committee structure, will include MLS owners, BPC leadership, club executives, head coaches, academy coaches, former MLS players and members of Pitch Black, a resource group of Black employees from MLS’s league office. Among the committee’s goals will be to work with the league to develop a strategy toward diversity, inclusion, opportunity and social justice, including supporting and championing the proposed initiatives.
- Civic Engagement Initiative: MLS will use league resources to address issues of public concern among marginalized communities. Areas of focus will include the recently created MLS Unites to Vote initiative, along with other programs that encourage community participation in civic activities.
- Soccer Upward Mobility Initiative: This initiative will provide access, exposure and clearly defined career paths that develop talent from underrepresented groups. This initiative will include developing pathways of entrance and advancement for emerging and current talent, in addition to creating policies and an educational ecosystem to increase Black representation in executive and sporting positions at the league office, the member clubs and other North American soccer organizations.
- Youth and Grassroots Community Initiative: MLS will use league resources to close the representation gap across the broad spectrum of the sport in North America with the goal of increasing participation and opportunity for members of underserved communities. This initiative will include collaborating with MLS NEXT to increase representation among players, coaches and referees.
- Supplier Diversity Program: This program will provide meaningful opportunities and economic inclusion to minority-owned businesses. This will include spending around major MLS major, hiring of agencies and the selection of vendors, among many areas of league and club business.
- Partnerships with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and 100 Black Men of America: MLS has formed partnerships with 100 Black Men of America and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. In addition to a financial commitment, MLS will collaborate with both organizations to develop long-term programming centered around mentorship, workplace development, social justice, health and wellness and financial literacy.
Similar to other sports such as golf that are trying to increase black representation, it will be a long road that requires ongoing commitment. However, this is the beginning of a much needed push forward.