2020 was a year that can truly be summed up by one word, change. Everyone’s had to adapt to a new normal that included wearing masks, working from home and even staying at least six feet apart from ones you love. Our lives were not just reshaped because of COVID-19, but also our society took the time during lockdown to speak out over some social justice issues.
This week the Philadelphia Inquirer is putting together a great panel to discuss Sports and Social Justice. The live discussion involves the Philadelphia Union’s Ray Gaddis alongside Philly native, and former Temple basketball coach, Dawn Staley, and Philadelphia Eagles’ Rodney McLeod. Some of the topics the three will talk about are racial equality, social justice and how progress is being made across sport leagues.
Last summer, Ray Gaddis was one of the players who helped launch the MLS Black Players Coalition. Gaddis sits on the board of the coalition. When it launched in June, the Union defender told reporters, “We’re advocating to break down barriers, not only within the soccer world, but also educationally, also in the medical field, also day-to-day things that people have to go through that look like me.”
Before the league restarted, the coalition lead a peaceful demonstration on field where black players wore shirts displaying phrases like “Silence is Violence”, “Black All the Time” and “Black and Proud.” The demonstration lasted 8 minutes and 46 seconds and was to honor George Floyd. Floyd was killed in May of 2020, when he was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. During the arrest an officer knelt on the Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes.
In December, the group was named MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year. For its humanitarian efforts, MLS Works donated $5,000 to Black Players for Change.
Hall of Fame basketball player, Dawn Staley, wrote an essay in The Player’s Tribune called “Black People Are Tired.” The essay was her reaction to the senseless killing of George Floyd. In it she writes about the reason why people are mad, “Because nothing has changed.” She also talked about being more than just a coach focused on X’s and O’s but also questioning if she is doing right by her players. Including the question, she asks herself “Are they being equipped to navigate the world as a black woman in our society.”
Gaddis and the Union are not the only player and sports franchise in the area to try and tackle social change. The Philadelphia Eagles’ Rodney McLeod wore custom cleats during pregame of the team’s September 20th game against the LA Rams. Those cleats specific called out ‘Justice for Breonna Taylor’. Taylor was fatally shot inside her apartment in March of 2020, when plainclothes officers forced their way into the apartment as part of a drug dealing operation.
The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked nationwide protest and unrest toward police brutality, and systematic racism.
The free online event is taking place on Wednesday, February 24 at 6 p.m. You can register for the free event by clicking here. The Union, which is partnering with the Inquirer, will also broadcast the event live on philadelphiaunion.com.