One by one the members of Black Players for Change each raised a gloved fist before MLS returned to the soccer field Wednesday night in Orlando.
Then as the starters for the Orlando City and Inter Miami teams knelt there was silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
More than 100 people took part in the pregame protest. The Black players were dressed in black shirts with slogans on them like “Silence is Violence,” “Black All The Time,” and “Black and Proud.” Their black face masks said, “Black Lives Matter.”
According to the Tennessean newspaper, Toronto defender Justin Morrow said earlier in the day that the group wanted to send a message that the players are “standing up for our brothers and sisters in this fight for racial equality and human rights.”
MLS is holding a tournament for the league’s 26 teams — one team has had to drop out — as it returns to action. All the players are staying in a central location under the league’s coronavirus protocols.
The length of the silence was a tribute to George Floyd, who died while in police custody on May 25. It was initially reported that a now-fired Minneapolis police officer had a knee on his neck for that length of time.
Black Players for Change was formed on Juneteenth (June 19) as The Black Players Coalition of MLS and recently changed its name.