A group of black players in MLS have united to form the Black Players Coalition of MLS, the newly-founded organization announced on Friday.
The organization's announcement coincides with Juneteenth, which commemorates the day on which Union forces in Texas delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to the region, freeing the last group of slaves in the United States.
It also comes amid ongoing protests and unrest across the world, with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparking wider discussions about the issues of race and police brutality in society.
With the formation of the organization, the Black Players Coalition will look to "address the racial inequalities in our league, stand with all those fighting racism in the world of soccer, and positively impact black communities across the United States and Canada."
Toronto FC's Justin Morrow has been named the organization's executive director, with Philadelphia Union defender Ray Gaddis, Chicago Fire forward C.J. Sapong, former D.C. United forward Quincy Amarikwa, FC Cincinnati defender Kendall Waston, Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse, New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson,, Nashville SC defender Jalil Anibaba, Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara, Minnesota United defender Ike Opara and D.C. United goalkeepers Bill Hamid and Earl Edwards Jr serving as board members.
The group has secured $75,000 (£60,000) in charitable contributions by the MLS Players Association, with the non-profit organization aiming to lobby for bias training, community initiatives, cultural education courses and a more prominent role in league leadership.
"As we celebrate Juneteenth and the coming together of our coalition, we must remind ourselves that such progressivism was once met with vehement backlash," a portion of the coalition's statement read. "May this reminder serve as a warning to us all that confronting systemic racism head-on will never be a smooth, constantly upward trending path, but rather a timeless battle that will force us to reinvent the very essence of our institutions.
— Black Players Coalition of MLS (@BPCMLS) June 19, 2020
"We hope our organization can be an extension of our ancestors’ sacrifice for the next generation to live in a more equitable society as we seek to forge our own path forward under one united voice.
"Lastly, we’d like to acknowledge all the other professional athletes standing up against racism. We see you and you empower us. Whether you happen to be singing this tune alone, or supported by a group, we want you to know that we are with you. We are here to fight this battle together. We will be heard."
Friday's announcement, which saw many of those involved tweet "There will be change" alongside the hashtag "#MLSIsBlack, also saw the organization recognized by the league, as MLS pledged to support the coalition's efforts.
"MLS proudly recognizes and supports the Black Players Coalition of MLS -- a group of players who today, on Juneteenth, have established themselves as influential change leaders," the league said in a statement.
"The League looks forward to continued and longstanding collaborations with the Black Players Coalition of MLS through efforts aimed at developing the game in Black communities, prioritizing diversity, and addressing implicit bias through league-wide cultural and educational initiatives."
MLS is set to return to play on July 8 with the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.