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July 09, 2020

In MLS return, Philadelphia Union players wear names of Black victims of police brutality

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor among shooting victims honored in match against NYCFC

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Union Black Lives Matter Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Union defender Mark McKenzie, a leading figure in the MLS Black Players for Change organization, wears a jersey honoring Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy who was fatally shot by Cleveland police in 2014. The entire team wore jerseys honoring Black shooting victims.

The Philadelphia Union took the field for the first time in four months on Thursday, returning with strong statement in support of Black Lives Matter and victims of police brutality. 

After a pre-game moment of silence before Thursday's 1-0 win over New York City Football Club, Union players gathered in Black Lives Matter warm-ups. When they removed their shirts, they turned around to reveal that the last names on their jerseys were victims of police killings, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Philando Castile. 

Below the players' numbers was a patch that read "One name, too many."

And Alejandro Bedoya, who scored the lone goal in the Union win, wore this modified captain's arm band that included the names of Black people who were killed by police officers. 

The demonstration came a day after after a similar display from other MLS players in the league's first match between Inter Miami and Orlando City SC, when more than 100 members of the Black Players for Change organization demonstration on the field. 

The MLS has returned for a World Cup-style tournament as a resolution to the season that was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. 


RELATED: Sixers' Mike Scott says NBA's handling of jersey statements 'was just a bad miss'


As Brotherly Game pointed out Thursday, it's unclear whether the Union were permitted by the MLS to wear the modified jerseys. 

In recent years, after a string of mass shootings in the U.S., Bedoya has loudly advocated for gun reform. Following massacres in Texas and Ohio, he picked up a live microphone after a scoring a goal and shouted, "Hey Congress, let's do something now! End gun violence!"

Other Union players, including Mark McKenzie and Ray Gaddis, are vocal members of the Black Players for Change organization. 

The group has urged MLS to increase diversity in coaching, front office and executive jobs, to hire a chief diversity officer and to integrate implicit bias training. 

“Really this protest is about fighting for racial equality and human rights,” organizer Justin Morrow of Toronto FC told the Associated Press. “We’re standing with all of our brothers and sisters across the world — definitely across the North American sports landscape.”

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