As the players take the field on Saturday, all of them will have an individual person’s name on the back of their jersey, or an organization that’s working for change. The chosen names or organizations/initiatives can be connected to the COVID-19 pandemic or Black Lives Matter movement. The following players shared their reasoning behind their selections.
Kyle Duncan -- Elijah Mclain
Meaning to Player: Elijah McClain, say his name. Honestly, I could’ve gone with any of the black women or black men to have on my shirt because I feel like all of them do apply to me, but I think about myself in this instance. Elijah McClain was walking on the street listening to music, dancing, having fun in his own way, with his open face ski mask because of his anemia, that’s my every day life right there. But there was no wrong done, so why exactly was ‘I’ killed. I said I couldn’t breathe but that wasn’t enough. I started vomiting but that wasn’t enough. I quoted the ‘I’ because we as black people are more than alive and each one us they kill lives on within us. We are proud to be black and want to enjoy our lives in paradise. Life is already hard, so why make it harder? It hurts me to say, I wish all the racist folks out there were just as proud of us being black than we are for ourselves. Nowadays, all it takes is one slip up, or no slip up at all, for a black person to be killed, then there is no justice. It’s as if injustice is legal. You start to develop anxiety from these life events. We shouldn’t have to ask ourselves, ‘Will I be next?’ Don’t get me wrong, there are great police officers out there, but they are also held accountable because of the terrible ones. When I’m pulled over, my heart skips a beat, I get nervous, I don’t move a muscle until the police officer walks up to the window, nine out of ten times that I’ve been pulled over has been for no reason, and I’m just that scared because I have no idea what excuse they will use if I’m the next black child that is killed because I was reaching for my wallet. Dancing and listening to music walking on the street applies to everyone, but it isn’t everyone being killed. It is everyone that is Elijah McClain.
It’s important for me to have Elijah McClain on my shirt because I believe police brutality, systemic racism, and injustice need to vanish. I also believe every black man and black woman out there is Elijah McClain in their own skin, and I pray we are all able to live in paradise before the time comes for us to Rest In Peace.
Kendall McIntosh -- Trayvon Martin
Meaning to Player: I chose Trayvon Martin because I wanted to give a reminder that we've recently been through this before. I want to reiterate how important it is that we continue to seek change in regards to how the police interact with POC, but I want to emphasize something that is equally if not more important, we as society need to change the way our communities interact with POC both socially and culturally. It is imperative, because if we do not, we will continue to see different iterations of this story, most recently with Ahmaud Arbery. It's time for us to hold everyone accountable. Don't stop saying their names.
On BLM initiatives across the league: I think the BLM initiatives going on in the league are great for awareness and education, but I would like to see more engagement or at least the commitment to engage with communities of color. I am happy to see how fervently so many people believe in the movement and the cause, I just hope we can move that energy, as I have heard Harry Edwards say, from protest, to programs, to progress. I think that's the next step and I look forward to creating that change and being a part of that progress.
Alex Muyl -- Philando Castile
Meaning to Player: I’m wearing Philando Castile’s name on the back of my jersey because I believe that’s the example of a man being seen as a threat and murdered only for the color of his skin. After being pulled over for a nothing offense and calmly telling the officer he has a licensed firearm, Philando Castile was shot seven times for no reason and bleeds out in front of his partner and child. The officer gets trialed for second degree manslaughter and walks, while Castile’s family is left to mourn and bury their loved one. As a white man, it’s never fun to be pulled over by a police officer, but I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will leave the situation with my life. It’s long overdue that we address the application of policing in this country, especially towards black folks, as well as the larger structures which served to oppress and keep black people as second class citizens. I urge everyone, as difficult at it may be, please watch the video. Until we acknowledge the issues in this country, black men will keep dying, children will keep losing their fathers, and we will not stand for the values we say we stand for.
Mandela Egbo -- Rashan Charles
Meaning to Player: Rashan Charles was a young black father, son, brother and friend to many of us, who was killed at the hands of police in what was deemed to be an unlawful killing. I’m getting his name on my shirt because his story deserves to be known, and his memory should never be forgotten. Need justice for Rash, Rest in Peace, bro.
Sean Davis -- Breonna Taylor
Meaning to Player: When the murder of George Floyd happened, I think I took a hard look in the mirror, I tried to educate myself because I needed to do more, I needed to understand how our country got here. I needed to better understand systemic racism in our country, so we had a great group discussion as a team. I think the black players in our team did a great job of discussing their personal experiences. We also involved the coaches, which I think was really important because they’re a little bit older, they have other experiences and perspectives to share. I remember doing a lot of research, trying to read more, listen more, watch more and I also remember specifically being moved after hearing Breonna Taylor’s death, just because she was around my age, my mom was an EMT as well. The more details you got on what happened, the more angry I got, so this specifically hits home for me personally. It’s tough to see that justice hasn’t been served yet in her case, for her family, I can’t imagine what her family is going through. Personally, I just want to bring as much awareness to the Breonna Taylor case as much as possible.
Amro Tarek -- Dina Moubasher
Meaning to Player: Dina is from the same hometown as me, and we went to the same school. She was in my brother's class. He's a little bit older than me by just three years, and we kind of grew up together. She's a doctor now at Assiut University Hospital. The reason I chose her was because it’s a tough time for all doctors and nurses all around the world. And I think it’s very brave of them to face this moment, you know, without fearing their lives, risking their lives. She’s been working a lot lately in the hospital, facing a lot of cases, and I think the only thing I could do is mention her name, of course, along with all the other doctors all over the world. So I thought this could be something nice I could do for her. She's always been supportive to me in soccer, so I wanted to pay back a little bit. She for sure deserves it for the hard work she’s putting into this hard time.
Jason Pendant -- Ngoc Chau
Meaning to Player: My mom works in the food industry, in a supermarket. During lockdown, she worked six days of the week. She would wake up 4:00 am to fill the shelves with fruits and vegetables until 8:30 a.m., the opening time. By the time it was 8:30 am, there was already a long line to enter, but entries were limited. Customers emptied the shelves, so they could stay at their homes as much as possible. It was a mess because customers were panicking, and she was in contact with the customers to help them out. She tried to calm them down and tell them to respect the social distance protocols. She required customers to wear masks and wash their hands regularly.
It’s important for me to put my mom’s name on my jersey to show how brave she was during the pandemic, although she feared for her health, she still went to work. She risked her life because the virus was very present.
Marc Rzatkowski -- George Floyd
Meaning to Player: I know there are many names, but in my mind George Floyd’s name stands for the Black Lives Matter movement. His case showed the world the racial injustice in a brutal way. His death was filmed and made people more aware of the inequitable treatment of black people.
On BLM initiatives across the league and the world: It’s super important. We all can see that racism is still there. We reached a point where “not being racist” is just not enough. It’s a claim that signifies neutrality. “I see no color” is not the goal. “I see your color and I will work against racism that harms you, tell me how to do better” - that’s the goal. We are all personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society we grew up in, so I think not only all soccer leagues -- everyone -- should use their reach to take action. Everyone can be the change and can help make the world a better place. We are all human, and we are living on the same planet. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what color your skin has, or what religion you follow. It’s about respecting each other and spreading love.
Ryan Meara -- Bridget Mulligan
Meaning to Player: I put the name of Bridget Mulligan at the back of my jersey. She’s a good friend of mine and was a nurse at the Bronx, was on the frontlines, dealing with all the COVID-19 positive patients until she herself came down with a positive COVID-19 test and ended up in the hospital for a couple of weeks. There were moments there where it wasn’t looking too good for her, but being the fighter that she is, she fought through and now she’s close to 100% health, back to work full-time. It’s just a testament to who she is as a person, how much she fought through and now she’s back to work like nothing ever happened. It’s also her birthday this weekend, so I just wanted to give her a Happy Birthday shout out as well.
Aaron Long -- VOYCEnow
Meaning to Player: On the back of my jersey will be VOYCEnow, a foundation my teammate Zack Steffen started. It’s a global community of fans and players fighting for equality and justice.
Sean Nealis -- Dr. James A. Mahoney
Meaning to Player: I chose to play for Dr. James A. Mahoney because he worked tirelessly during the Coronavirus pandemic at the University of Brooklyn Hospital. He saved countless individuals' lives and was ultimately taken too soon from the disease. Thank you Dr. James A. Mahoney.
Florian Valot -- Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
Meaning to Player: So what I decided to put on the back of my jersey will be three French words, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, which is the French national motto, meaning Freedom, Equality and Solidarity. It takes its origin from the French Revolution in 1789, and the people overthrew the monarchy and established a republic. They wanted to get rid of hierarchy and put everyone in the same level of equality and freedom, and from there, they decided to add that solidarity part of it because without it, everyone can do their own thing. We are stronger together, than we are separate. It means a lot with what’s going on today, and why I decided to have those three words on the back of my jersey.
John Tolkin -- The Privott’s
Meaning to Player: I want to give recognition to my cousins The Privott’s, and my uncle Daryl, out in Kentucky, who are dealing with racial inequality day-to-day, and what they’ve gone through in the past. I just wanted to say stay strong, and we’re here for you.