Racism has long been an issue in soccer and society. A group of teams, supporters, and organizations are looking to take action to finally address this systemic problem. Today, The Sanneh Foundation, the Chicago Fire, Angel City FC, Oakland Roots, and the American Outlaws announced their partnership with Common Goal, a global social impact collective, for a new initiative, the Anti-Racist Project.
Its goal is to implement a program for teams, fans, and leagues to provide anti-racist training to 5,000 coaches, 60,000 young people, and 115 staff in over 400 communities in the first year. The collaboration between the teams, organizations, and the largest supporters group for the U.S. national soccer teams seeks to end the talking and start working on the doing.
United States Men’s National Team and Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen is one of the first players who is signing onto the project. “There’s been so much talk over the last months about racism in soccer and beyond, and enough is enough. It’s time to take action,” Steffen said in a statement released by Common Goal. “We need to show people how to be anti-racist. I wanted to join this project because it is the kind of collective action necessary to make large-scale change, and I hope that this project will go worldwide and create a new culture of inclusion in as many countries as possible.”
Tony Sanneh, the former USMNT legend, has created anti-racism curriculum through his nonprofit, The Sanneh Foundation, for several years. It is that curriculum which serves as the inspiration and the foundation for expanding the Anti-Racist Project to begin the process of combating systemic racism in the beautiful game. “I remember being chased around the field being called the N-word” says Sanneh. “We have made some progress but not enough. Racism takes many forms. Sometimes it’s an obvious individual manifestation, but it’s also the structural barriers embedded in the game at different levels, but the end result is the same – people of color are excluded from the game. We know what the problem is – now is the time to go and fix it.”
Teams from Major League Soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League, and the USL Championship are all involved in this partnership. Angel City FC, an expansion team for the NWSL who begins play next year, have used this announcement to further cement their commitment to bringing equity to sports. “We are proud to support this important initiative and very much look forward to working with Common Goal and the other great partners involved to develop a powerful curriculum and supporting in any way we can,” said Julie Uhrman, Angel City FC co-founder and president.
Even the members of the largest supporters group for the U.S. national teams are getting involved. The American Outlaws, which has 200 chapters and around 20,000 members, joined the project to further their mission of making the game more inclusive and accessible to fans from all walks of life. They want diversity and inclusion to be at the forefront of everything that they do, and that action doesn’t just mean “just having harsh conversations,” but doing the work to ensure that the American fanbase is more reflective of the diversity this country possesses.
Leading this effort is Common Goal, who is helping to raise funds and bring the collective minds together to create the anti-racism programming. Common Goal’s Evan Whitfield, who was a former player for the Chicago Fire, highlighted that the Anti-Racist Project will do more than just tackle racism in the game. “Common Goal is all about unleashing the collective power of soccer to create positive action,” Whitfield said. “The Anti-Racist Project is led by a unique and diverse group prepared to aggregate their individual and organizational power. There are no Black majority owners of MLS Clubs, there are zero Black coaches in the NWSL. This needs to change, and the responsibility to make that change lies with everyone – not just people of color.”
There is no room for racism in our game or anywhere else. The #AntiRacistProject aims to fund a toolkit designed by BIPOC experts across the U.S. football system, that will see 5,000 coaches, 60,000 young people, and 115 staff trained in more than 400 communities in year one.
— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) February 24, 2021
It’s a bold initiative with bold goals. But, these teams and organizations are seeking to do more than just talk about it. They’re hoping to be the change they seek. And, they’re inviting other teams, organizations, players, fans, and any other interested parties to support the project. Because in the end, it will take everyone’s commitment to finally create some real change. This initiative is the beginning, and the collective is ready to start tearing down the foundations upon which racism is allowed to exist in our game.