MLS is launching a series of initiatives to combat racism, advocate for social justice and increase diverse representation in the sport, it announced.
Among the efforts is a $1 million donation from owners to Black Players For Change, the group of more than 170 players that first banded together in June.
The programs include the formation of a diversity committee that features members of the MLS Board of Governors, Commissioner Don Garber, representatives from BPC, members of Pitch Black — a resource group of Black employees from MLS’ league office — and “other members of the soccer community.”
The league will launch a civic engagement initiative to “address issues of public concert among marginalized communities.” MLS will also start the “Soccer Upward Mobility Initiative” to “provide access and exposure” to develop talent from underrepresented groups in the sport; it will include policies to increase Black representation at the league office and other soccer organizations in North America.
MLS will also launch similar programs to address the youth and grassroots level.
The initiatives will extend to MLS suppliers, which will entail including minority-owned businesses in league spending around major events and hiring of agencies.
The league has also made a financial commitment to 100 Black Men of America and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and will work with both organizations to develop programming around “mentorship, workplace development, social justice, health and wellness, and financial literacy.”
MLS, in recent years, has made progress in its racial hiring practices. Despite dropping from 93.9 points in 2019 to 90.7 this year, the 2020 MLS Racial and Gender Report Card authored by Dr. Richard Lapchick graded the league with an A for its racial hiring practices — second only to the NBA.
At 41.6%, the MLS league office finished with the best record for people of color in men’s professional sports for a ninth consecutive year. MLS also saw the percentage of head coaches of color rise in 2020, from 37.5% in 2019 to an industry-leading 40.7%.
Of the league’s 26 active clubs, 10 of them are led by coaches of color.
Notably, the league still lags behind in its gender hiring practices; MLS earned a C- score for its gender hiring practices in the 2020 MLS RGRC.