MLS unveils programs to combat racism, fight for social justice

MLS commissioner Don Garber. (Graham Hughes/CP)

TORONTO -- Major League Soccer unveiled a series of initiatives Monday to combat racism, advocate for social justice and increase representation in the sport.

MLS says the programs come out of several months of discussions with key league stakeholders, including a recent meeting between the MLS board and the Black Players For Change.

MLS commissioner Don Garber will sit on a newly formed diversity committee consisting of members of the MLS board of governors, representatives of Black Players For Change, club executives, coaches, former MLS players and members of Pitch Black, a resource group of Black employees from the MLS office.

Committee 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.

"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," Garber said in a statement.

"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."

The group will be part of the league's formal committee structure.

The league also plans to use its resources to address issues of public concern among marginalized communities, including the recently created MLS Unites to Vote initiative.

Via the Soccer Upward Mobility Initiative, MLS will provide "access, exposure, and clearly defined career paths" that develop talent from under-represented groups. The goal is to develop and promote emerging talent and help increase Black representation in executive and sporting positions at the league office, member clubs and other North American soccer organizations.

The league is also committed to increasing participation and opportunity for members of "underserved communities," including collaborating with MLS NEXT, its player development platform, to increase representation among players, coaches and referees.

MLS is building a Supplier Diversity Program to provide opportunities for minority-owned businesses.

The league has formed partnerships with 100 Black Men of America and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, looking to help financially and work with both to develop long-term programming "centred around mentorship, workplace development, social justice, health and wellness, and financial literacy."

In addition, league owners have contributed US$1 million to Black Players For Change to aid in growth of the organization.

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